I-1-5-1.What Constitutes a Litigation-related Inquiry

Last Update: 6/24/05 (Transmittal I-1-53)

A. Definition

A litigation-related inquiry is any inquiry from any source outside of the Social Security Administration (SSA) (other than the Department of Justice), including inquiries from attorneys who are counsel for a class action, that goes beyond seeking routine information and that could affect litigation. It may involve an individual civil action, a class action (one that is threatened, pending, or that SSA is implementing), or a general litigation-related question.

“Inquiry” includes not just questions but also requests for information, documents, or action. “Inquiry” also includes any communication that could be construed to carry the threat of litigation.

B. Examples

Litigation-related inquiries include but are not limited to:

  1. questions dealing with SSA's training, or lack of training, in specific areas;

  2. questions concerning SSA's readiness to take on litigation-related workloads;

  3. questions concerning whether SSA intends to acquiesce in a particular circuit court decision and, if so, the effect on pending cases (court or noncourt); and

  4. questions concerning a class action for which SSA is formulating an implementation order or instructions.

C. Exclusions

The following inquiries or requests for information are ordinarily considered routine and are not considered litigation-related:

  1. inquiries from a claimant or representative concerning status of the claimant's case;

  2. notification of a change of address;

  3. requests for copies of documents from a claim file;

  4. questions from a claimant or representative with respect to payment of travel expenses for the particular claimant's case;

  5. requests for a list of referral services that provide information on representatives;

  6. requests for copies of or to inspect HALLEX, the Social Security Act or regulations, and other material listed in 20 CFR §§ 402.55 and 402.60 and in HALLEX I-1-4; and

  7. inquiries that identify a claimant as a “responder” in a class action that SSA is implementing. (The component may provide information based on the published implementation instructions for the particular class action.)

OHA components must use judgment in determining whether an inquiry or request is more than routine and could affect litigation. OHA components must resolve any doubt in favor of considering an inquiry to be litigation-related.

NOTE:

Process requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or the Privacy Act (PA) that appear to be litigation-related in accordance with usual FOIA/PA operating instructions (see I-1-4, Information Disclosure). (The FOIA/PA staff(s) will be responsible for identifying and coordinating FOIA requests that appear to also be litigation-related.)