TN 14 (03-20)

GN 03910.030 Advising Claimants About Their Right to Representation

A. Requirement to advise claimants about their right to representation

Sections 206(c) and 1631(d)(2)(D) of the Act require us to notify claimants who receive an adverse determination or decision of the options for obtaining a representative to help them in presenting their cases before us. The notice must also advise qualifying claimants of the availability of legal services organizations that provide free services.

We do not encourage or discourage representation, but we inform claimants of their right to be represented and provide a referral list of legal aid or other non-profit organizations that provide free legal services to any claimant who is unrepresented.

1. Advising claimants of their right to representation

We inform all claimants of their right to representation, if they choose, by an attorney or non-attorney. See GN 03910.020A for information about qualifications for attorney and non-attorney representatives.

If a claimant does not have the capacity to appoint a representative, another individual as described in GN 03910.040B.1 may do so on his or her behalf.

2. The representation referral list

We maintain a representation referral list of legal and non-legal services organizations in the claimant's local area. We provide this list to all unrepresented claimants who have received an adverse determination or decision at any level of our administrative process or who ask us about representation. The information we provide to claimants is neutral, as we do not recommend one organization over another. The organizations determine whether the claimant qualifies for any free services under their criteria.

The representation referral list of legal or non-legal services organizations includes:

  • local bar associations;

  • legal aid societies;

  • legal service organizations;

  • law schools with legal aid programs;

  • non-profit organizations; and

  • other community organizations that provide free services in the field office's (FO) service area.

NOTE: The organizations will be identified on the representation referral list in alphabetical order. The referral list also will note whether each organization provides free legal services, charges fees for services, or makes referrals to service providers who charge fees for services.

3. Criteria for being on the representation referral list

Organizations must meet certain criteria to be included on the representation referral list.

We include legal and non-legal services organizations that:

  • indicate a willingness to appear on the list;

  • are located in the FO's service area or close to the FO's service area. If it is a national organization, the organization must service the claimant’s area (e.g., non-profit organizations that have participating providers in the claimant’s service area even though they are not located near the claimant); and

  • do not make a profit from the referral, but may charge a small fee upfront to defray some expenses.

NOTE: The National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives (NOSSCR) and the National Association of Disability Representatives (NADR) are on the representation referral list because they expressed a willingness to appear on it and are able to assist claimants with referrals throughout the country.

However, we do not include:

  • individuals (whether attorney or non-attorney representatives); and

  • for-profit firms or organizations.

4. Maintaining and offering the representation referral list

The FO(s) and hearing offices (HO(s)) will:

  • maintain a current representation referral list by notifying each other of any changes to organizations' information (e.g., updated address, phone numbers, or additional representational services offered to their clients) or subsequent deletions or additions to the representation referral list;

  • regularly compare and update the list of organizations to ensure their respective representation referral lists are accurate;

  • offer the representation referral list to claimants who express an interest in being represented, who appeal an adverse determination at the initial level, or who are unrepresented and request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ);

  • not recommend one organization over another to claimants; and

  • keep copies of the representation referral list on-hand for distribution to claimants.

B. Responding to inquiries from claimants about the right to representation

Whether a claimant resides inside or outside of the United States, he or she has a right to representation.

Advise claimants who reside outside of the country that a representative must obtain our authorization to charge and collect a fee for services regardless of where the claimant or representative lives. See GN 03920.000 for information on representative's fees subject to our authorization.

Additionally, as noted in GN 03910.020, we recognize representatives who live outside of the United States to the extent they meet the qualifications explained in GN 03910.020A and complete the appointment process explained in GN 03910.040.

Responding to inquiries from claimants about the right to representation
Claimant contacts the FO about a pending claim, matter, or issue at the initial or reconsideration level Advise any unrepresented claimant who asks about getting representation or indicates that he or she is having or may have difficulty obtaining representation as follows:

1. What is representation

Explain to the claimant that he or she can be represented by a qualified individual, who will help the claimant and witnesses, if any, to do any of the following:

  • obtain evidence;

  • prepare for any proceedings before us;

  • develop the claimant's case if he or she wants additional assistance; or

  • present the claimant’s case at an administrative proceeding.

2. How to appoint a representative

Explain to the claimant how to appoint a representative (see GN 03910.040), the representative's scope of authority (see GN 03910.025), and authorization of representative fees (GN 03920.000).

3. Informational material about representation

Depending on the level of the administrative process at which the claim, matter, or issue is pending, provide the claimant with one or more of the following, as appropriate:

  • a copy of Publication No. 05-10075, Social Security and Your Right to Representation;

  • Form SSA-1696 (Claimant's Appointment of a Representative) as an option to document the appointment; or

  • a copy of the representation referral list.

NOTE: We generally provide all of the aforementioned materials to a claimant. However, if the claimant contacts the FO about a pending claim, matter, or issue that is at the hearing level, it is not necessary to provide the claimant with a copy of the representation referral list. The HO will provide one with the acknowledgment letter for receipt of the claimant's request for a hearing before an ALJ. If the claimant specifically requests it, provide a copy of the representation referral list.

4. Documenting the record.

Document the claim file as to how you advised the claimant about his or her right to representation:

  • enter a Report of Contact (RPOC) in Modernized Claims System (MCS) or a Report of Contact (DROC) in Modernized SSI Claims System (MSSICS) indicating that you provided the information to the claimant; or

  • complete a Form SSA-5002 (Report of Contact (ROC)) and fax it into the electronic folder for electronic claims or attach it to the paper folder for paper claims (include the date you provide this information).

NOTE 1: A report of contact (RPOC/DROC/ROC) is generally used to record communications.

NOTE 2: Refer to TC 01005.000 for information on releasing information from our records to appointed representatives and third parties.

Claimant contacts the Teleservice Center (TSC) about a pending claim, matter, or issue

When a claimant contacts the TSC and either asks about representation or indicates that he or she is having trouble obtaining representation, you should take the following actions if the claimant is unrepresented:
  • advise the claimant by following the instructions listed above in 1. through 4.;

  • send the claimant a copy of the SSA Publication No. 05-10075, Social Security And Your Right to Representation, and Form SSA-1696 (Claimant's Appointment of a Representative) for use if the claimant decides to obtain representation; and

  • annotate any material prepared (e.g., a lead, protective filing, ROC) to indicate that you advised the claimant of his or her right to representation and that the FO should provide the representation referral list to the claimant.

NOTE 1: For the purposes of whether we can accept and process an appointment, a lead for potential benefits does not qualify as a pending claim, matter, or issue. See GN 00202.001 for information on leads and inquiries.

NOTE 2: Refer to TC 01005.000 for information on releasing information from our records to appointed representatives and third-parties.

Claimant contacts the HO about a pending claim

The HO routinely provides a copy of the representation referral list to an unrepresented claimant when acknowledging receipt of the claimant's request for hearing. However, you may also give or send to the claimant, if available:

  • a copy of the SSA Publication No. 05-10075, Social Security And Your Right to Representation; and

  • Form SSA-1696 (Claimant's Appointment of a Representative) for use if the claimant decides to obtain representation.

NOTE: If these documents are not available, you may refer the claimant to the FO or TSC to obtain them.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0203910030
GN 03910.030 - Advising Claimants About Their Right to Representation - 09/30/2011
Batch run: 03/23/2020
Rev:09/30/2011