§ 498.102. Basis for civil monetary penalties and assessments.

(a) The Office of the Inspector General may impose a penalty and assessment, as applicable, against any person who it determines in accordance with this part—

(1) Has made, or caused to be made, a statement or representation of a material fact for use in determining any initial or continuing right to or amount of:

(i) Monthly insurance benefits under title II of the Social Security Act; or

(ii) Benefits or payments under title VIII or title XVI of the Social Security Act; and

(2)(i) Knew, or should have known, that the statement or representation was false or misleading, or

(ii) Made such statement with knowing disregard for the truth; or

(3) Omitted from a statement or representation, or otherwise withheld disclosure of, a material fact for use in determining any initial or continuing right to or amount of benefits or payments, which the person knew or should have known was material for such use and that such omission or withholding was false or misleading.

(b) The Office of the Inspector General may impose a penalty and assessment, as applicable, against any representative payee who receives a payment under title II, title VIII, or title XVI for the use and benefit of another individual and who converts such payment, or any part thereof, to a use that such representative payee knew or should have known was other than for the use and benefit of such other individual.

(c) The Office of the Inspector General may impose a penalty against any person who it determines in accordance with this part has made use of certain Social Security program words, letters, symbols, or emblems in such a manner that the person knew or should have known would convey, or in a manner which reasonably could be interpreted or construed as conveying, the false impression that a solicitation, advertisement or other communication was authorized, approved, or endorsed by the Social Security Administration, or that such person had some connection with, or authorization from, the Social Security Administration.

(1) Civil monetary penalties may be imposed for misuse, as set forth in paragraph (c) of this section, of—

(i) The words “Social Security,” “Social Security Account,” “Social Security Administration,” “Social Security System,” “Supplemental Security Income Program,” “Death Benefits Update,” “Federal Benefit Information,” “Funeral Expenses,” “Final Supplemental Program,” or any combination or variation of such words; or

(ii) The letters “SSA,” or “SSI,” or any other combination or variation of such letters; or

(iii) A symbol or emblem of the Social Security Administration (including the design of, or a reasonable facsimile of the design of, the Social Security card, the check used for payment of benefits under title II, or envelopes or other stationery used by the Social Security Administration) or any other combination or variation of such symbols or emblems.

(2) Civil monetary penalties will not be imposed against any agency or instrumentality of a State, or political subdivision of a State, that makes use of any words, letters, symbols or emblems of the Social Security Administration or instrumentality of the State or political subdivision.

(d) The Office of the Inspector General may impose a penalty against any person who offers, for a fee, to assist an individual in obtaining a product or service that the person knew or should have known the Social Security Administration provides free of charge, unless:

(1) The person provides sufficient notice before the product or service is provided to the individual that the product or service is available free of charge and:

(i) In a printed solicitation, advertisement or other communication, such notice is clearly and prominently placed and written in a font that is distinguishable from the rest of the text;

(ii) In a broadcast or telecast such notice is clearly communicated so as not to be construed as misleading or deceptive.

(2) Civil monetary penalties will not be imposed under paragraph (d) of this section with respect to offers—

(i) To serve as a claimant representative in connection with a claim arising under title II, title VIII, or title XVI; or

(ii) To prepare, or assist in the preparation of, an individual's plan for achieving self-support under title XVI.

(e) The use of a disclaimer of affiliation with the United States Government, the Social Security Administration or its programs, or any other agency or instrumentality of the United States Government will not be considered as a defense in determining a violation of section 1140 of the Social Security Act.

[71 FR 28580, May 17, 2006]