§ 416.1540. Rules of conduct and standards of responsibility for representatives.

(a) Purpose and scope. (1) All attorneys or other persons acting on behalf of a party seeking a statutory right or benefit must, in their dealings with us, faithfully execute their duties as agents and fiduciaries of a party. A representative must provide competent assistance to the claimant and recognize our authority to lawfully administer the process. The following provisions set forth certain affirmative duties and prohibited actions that will govern the relationship between the representative and us, including matters involving our administrative procedures and fee collections.

(2) All representatives must be forthright in their dealings with us and with the claimant and must comport themselves with due regard for the nonadversarial nature of the proceedings by complying with our rules and standards, which are intended to ensure orderly and fair presentation of evidence and argument.

(b) Affirmative duties. A representative must, in conformity with the regulations setting forth our existing duties and responsibilities and those of claimants (see § 416.912 in disability and blindness claims):

(1) Act with reasonable promptness to help obtain the information or evidence that the claimant must submit under our regulations, and forward the information or evidence to us for consideration as soon as practicable.

(2) Assist the claimant in complying, as soon as practicable, with our requests for information or evidence at any stage of the administrative decisionmaking process in his or her claim. In disability and blindness claims, this includes the obligation pursuant to § 416.912(c) to assist the claimant in providing, upon our request, evidence about:

(i) The claimant's medical source(s);

(ii) The claimant's age;

(iii) The claimant's education and training;

(iv) The claimant's work experience;

(v) The claimant's daily activities both before and after the date the claimant alleges that he or she became disabled;

(vi) The claimant's efforts to work; and

(vii) Any other factors showing how the claimant's impairment(s) affects his or her ability to work. In §§ 416.960 through 416.969a, we discuss in more detail the evidence we need when we consider vocational factors;

(3) Conduct his or her dealings in a manner that furthers the efficient, fair and orderly conduct of the administrative decisionmaking process, including duties to:

(i) Provide competent representation to a claimant. Competent representation requires the knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation. This includes knowing the significant issue(s) in a claim and having a working knowledge of the applicable provisions of the Social Security Act, as amended, the regulations and the Rulings; and

(ii) Act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a claimant. This includes providing prompt and responsive answers to our requests for information pertinent to processing of the claim; and

(4) Conduct business with us electronically at the times and in the manner we prescribe on matters for which the representative requests direct fee payment. (See § 416.1513).

(c) Prohibited actions. A representative must not:

(1) In any manner or by any means threaten, coerce, intimidate, deceive or knowingly mislead a claimant, or prospective claimant or beneficiary, regarding benefits or other rights under the Act;

(2) Knowingly charge, collect or retain, or make any arrangement to charge, collect or retain, from any source, directly or indirectly, any fee for representational services in violation of applicable law or regulation;

(3) Knowingly make or present, or participate in the making or presentation of, false or misleading oral or written statements, assertions or representations about a material fact or law concerning a matter within our jurisdiction;

(4) Through his or her own actions or omissions, unreasonably delay or cause to be delayed, without good cause (see § 416.1411(b)), the processing of a claim at any stage of the administrative decisionmaking process;

(5) Divulge, without the claimant's consent, except as may be authorized by regulations prescribed by us or as otherwise provided by Federal law, any information we furnish or disclose about a claim or prospective claim;

(6) Attempt to influence, directly or indirectly, the outcome of a decision, determination, or other administrative action by offering or granting a loan, gift, entertainment, or anything of value to a presiding official, agency employee, or witness who is or may reasonably be expected to be involved in the administrative decisionmaking process, except as reimbursement for legitimately incurred expenses or lawful compensation for the services of an expert witness retained on a non-contingency basis to provide evidence;

(7) Engage in actions or behavior prejudicial to the fair and orderly conduct of administrative proceedings, including but not limited to:

(i) Repeated absences from or persistent tardiness at scheduled proceedings without good cause (see § 416.1411(b));

(ii) Willful behavior which has the effect of improperly disrupting proceedings or obstructing the adjudicative process; and

(iii) Threatening or intimidating language, gestures, or actions directed at a presiding official, witness, or agency employee that result in a disruption of the orderly presentation and reception of evidence;

(8) Violate any section of the Act for which a criminal or civil monetary penalty is prescribed;

(9) Refuse to comply with any of our rules or regulations;

(10) Suggest, assist, or direct another person to violate our rules or regulations;

(11) Advise any claimant or beneficiary not to comply with any of our rules and regulations;

(12) Knowingly assist a person whom we suspended or disqualified to provide representational services in a proceeding under title XVI of the Act, or to exercise the authority of a representative described in § 416.1510; or

(13) Fail to comply with our sanction(s) decision.

[63 FR 41417, Aug. 4, 1998, as amended at 76 FR 56109, Sept. 12, 2011; 76 FR 80247, Dec. 23, 2011; 80 FR 14838, Mar. 20, 2015]