I-1-5-1.Litigation-Related Inquiries and Processing

Last Update: 11/20/14 (Transmittal I-1-77)

A. Definition

A litigation-related inquiry:

  • Is any inquiry that may be in the form of a question or request for information, documents, or action;

  • Includes any communication that could be construed to carry the threat of litigation;

  • Comes 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;

  • Goes beyond seeking routine information and could affect litigation; and

  • 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.

B. Examples

Litigation-related inquiries include but are not limited to:

  • Questions dealing with SSA's training (or lack of training) on specific subject matters;

  • Questions concerning SSA's readiness to take on litigation-related workloads;

  • Questions concerning whether SSA intends to acquiesce in a particular circuit court decision and, if so, the effect on pending cases (court or non-court); and

  • Questions concerning a class action for which SSA is formulating an implementation order or instructions.

NOTE:

Generally, SSA does not consider the following to be litigation-related inquiries: requests for status of a claimant's case, requests for documents from a claimant's case, questions raising an issue that was previously addressed by SSA, or inquiries that identify a claimant as a “responder” in a class action that SSA is implementing.

C. Receipt of Litigation-Related Inquiries

1. Oral Inquiries

When a hearing office (HO), National Hearing Center, National Case Assistance Center, or the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) receives an oral litigation-related inquiry, staff will obtain the following information:

  • The name of the caller;

  • The name of the organization, if any;

  • The date of the call;

  • The name of the case-related litigation (class action or individual civil action), if any, or the subject matter; and

  • The information requested.

HO and OAO staff will record the information on a Form SSA-5002 (Report of Contact) and associate the Report of Contact in Part D of the claim(s) file (when applicable).

2. Written Inquires

When an HO or OAO receives a written litigation-related inquiry, staff will scan the inquiry, along with any background material, into a portable document format (PDF) file and associate the inquiry in Part D of the claim(s) file (when applicable).

D. Referring Litigation-Related Inquiries

In the HO, staff will e-mail the PDF or Report of Contact to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review regional office (RO). The RO will review and evaluate the inquiry to ensure it meets the definition set forth in subsection A above. If an inquiry does not meet the definition, the RO will return it to the HO with instructions on how to respond to the inquirer. If an inquiry meets the definition, the RO will refer it to the Division of Field Procedures (DFP) in the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge at ¦¦¦ODAR OCALJ DFP.

In OAO, staff will e-mail the PDF or Report of Contact to the Executive Director's Office (EDO) at ¦¦¦ODAR OAO. The EDO, or its designee, will review and evaluate the inquiry to ensure that it meets the definition set forth in subsection A above. If an inquiry does not meet the definition, the EDO, or its designee, will draft a written response to the inquirer.

DFP and EDO will refer litigation-related inquires to the Office of Program Law in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). OGC is responsible for responding to litigation-related inquiries and notices of threatened class actions received by SSA.