I-2-1-70.Foreign Language Interpreters

Last Update: 9/28/05 (Transmittal I-2-67)

When a claimant has limited proficiency in English, the HO staff will, at the direction of the ALJ, arrange for a qualified interpreter to assist the claimant and the ALJ at the hearing.

A. Determining If a Claimant Needs an Interpreter

To determine if a claimant needs an interpreter, review the following:

  1. Form HA-501, Request for Hearing (RH): This form contains a question asking the claimant if an interpreter is needed, and if so, for what language.

  2. CPMS: CPMS will show whether the FO has input an annotation as to whether or not an interpreter is needed. If so, it will show the needed language.

  3. SSA-3368, Disability Report: This form contains questions asking the claimant if he or she can speak and understand English and, if not, what language he or she does speak. It also specifically asks whether the claimant can read and understand, and whether can write more than his/her name.

  4. Reports of Contact: Review any reports of contact with the claimant or other statements that indicate the need for an interpreter.

B. Criteria for a Qualified Foreign Language Interpreter

A qualified foreign language interpreter is an individual or vendor who:

  1. reads, writes and demonstrates fluency in the English language;

  2. reads, writes, and demonstrates fluency in the foreign language of the claimant;

  3. demonstrates a familiarity with basic SSA terminology;

  4. agrees to comply with SSA's disclosure and confidentiality of information requirements;

  5. has no personal stake in the outcome of the case that would create a conflict of interest; and

  6. agrees to provide an accurate interpretation of the claimant's responses, i.e., not to assume or infer facts or dates not actually provided by the claimant.

C. Sources of Qualified Interpreters

Sources of qualified contractor interpreters include the following:

  1. Telephone interpreter services (TIS). (See Section D. below for more information.)

  2. An employee of a vendor contracted to provide interpreter services.

  3. Non-SSA interpreters contracted to provide services.

(See also I-2-6-10, Hearing Procedures — Foreign Language)

D. Obtaining an Interpreter

  1. Telephone Interpreter Service [TIS]: Interpreters may be scheduled by contacting Tele-Interpreter at 1-800-246-6770. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has over 3,000 interpreters who can interpret over 150 languages and dialects. When the caller knows which language is needed, the TIS will connect the HO with the proper interpreter usually within one minute after connection with the call center. No local authorizations are needed for use of the service and additional certification of the interpreter on the record at the hearing is not necessary. For specific instructions on using this service see the Multi-language Gateway intranet site.

  2. If the hearing office (HO) maintains a list of qualified interpreters, contact an interpreter directly.

  3. If an in-person interpreter is required and the HO does not contract with someone who can provide the needed language, check the Multi-Language Gateway under Translator Database to see if interpreters are available in the area.

  4. If the HO contracts with an interpreter, the “INTERPRETER/TRANSLATOR SERVICES TIMESHEET” should be used to confirm the agreement for the interpreter to appear at the hearing; verify the monetary agreement; certify the services performed; and to record payment. A copy of this form should be available on the HO Local Area Network (LAN). (See CALJ Memorandum dated 08/18/2003 “Standardized Letter/Timesheet for Acquiring Interpreters/Translators.”)