I-2-6-10.Hearing Procedures — Foreign Language Interpreters

Last Update: 9/2/05 (Transmittal I-2-64)

If a claimant has difficulty understanding or communicating in English, the ALJ will ensure that an interpreter, fluent in both English and a language in which the claimant is proficient, is present throughout the hearing. Similarly, if the ALJ determines that the testimony of a witness with limited proficiency in English is needed to inquire fully into the issues, the ALJ will ensure that an interpreter is present.

SSA will provide an interpreter free of charge, to any individual requesting language assistance, or when it is evident that such assistance is necessary to ensure that the individual is not disadvantaged. SSA does not require individuals needing language assistance to provide their own interpreters.

(See I-2-1-70, Foreign Language Interpreters.)

NOTE:

HOs may schedule telephone interpreter service (TIS) for hearings by contacting Tele-Interpreters 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 what language is needed, or the TIS contractor identifies the language 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 to use the TIS. The additional certification described in Section A below is not necessary.

A. Interpreter's Certification

The ALJ will verify the interpreter's identity and require the interpreter to certify “under penalty of perjury” that he or she has no prior relationship to the person testifying, that he or she is not acting as the person's legal representative, and that he or she will accurately interpret the questions asked and the answers given to the best of his or her ability. ALJs may obtain the required certification on the record at the hearing or by requiring the interpreter to sign a form (e.g., Form SSA-795, Word file “CERTIFICATION BY INTERPRETER-Manley-Final”) or other written statement with the following information:

  • “I am acting as an interpreter for (individual's name) to perform the specific function of providing accurate interpretation between (individual 's name) and the ALJ. I solemnly (swear or affirm) that I will accurately interpret the questions asked and the answers given in this case to the best of my ability, under penalty of perjury.”

  • Interpreter's name, address and telephone number.

  • That the interpreter has no prior relationship to the person testifying, nor is he or she acting as the claimant's legal representative.

  • Any relevant comments that the interpreter wishes to include.

  • Any relevant comments that the ALJ wishes to document over the interpreter's signature.

  • The interpreter's signature.

If an interpreter refuses to provide the required certification, or the ALJ doubts an interpreter's qualifications or suspects fraudulent activity, the ALJ should adjourn or postpone the hearing until the services of an acceptable interpreter are obtained.

NOTE 1:

As described in the above NOTE, this additional certification is not necessary when using an interpreter from TIS.

NOTE 2:

Generally, a person under age 18 may not serve as an interpreter.

B. Verbatim Interpretation

The ALJ will direct the interpreter to interpret the questions and answers verbatim without changing the original meaning of the questions or answers. If an interpreter changes the form of the question to the third person (that is, uses “he” or “she”), the ALJ will instruct the interpreter to correct the interpretation, and caution the interpreter, on the record, against the practice.

The ALJ will also instruct the interpreter not to add personal comments to either the questions or the answers.

NOTE:

The ALJ should not use idiomatic or slang expressions when questioning hearing participants.

C. Difficulties with Interpretation

If the ALJ determines that the claimant or the witness is having difficulty understanding the interpretation, or the claimant or the witness objects to the interpretation, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is receiving a full and fair hearing.

  1. If the ALJ concludes that the claimant is receiving a full and fair hearing, the ALJ must note the claimant's or witness's objections on the record, proceed with the hearing and address the objections in the decision.

  2. If the ALJ concludes that the claimant is not receiving a full and fair hearing, the ALJ must adjourn or postpone the hearing until the services of an acceptable interpreter are obtained.