I-1-1-10.Appointing a Representative
Last Update: 11/14/22 (Transmittal I-1-104)
A. Appointment of a Representative
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will recognize an individual as a representative when all of the following requirements are met:
The claimant signs a written notice of appointment in ink, stating that the claimant wants the individual to be the claimant's representative in dealings with SSA.
The claimant must sign in ink a notice of appointment. SSA will accept a photocopy or facsimile of a wet-signed notice of appointment but does not accept signatures generated from electronic software programs or rubber-stamped signatures from the claimant. We accept a claimant's electronic signature as part of the e1696 process, available at www.ssa.gov/representation. For more information on a claimant's signature, refer to Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN 03910.040.
An appointed individual who is not an attorney must sign the notice of appointment, agreeing to be the claimant's representative. See 20 CFR 404.1707(b) and 416.1507(b). Although not required by the regulations, SSA strongly encourages attorneys to sign the notice of appointment.
SSA will accept a representative's electronic or rubber-stamped signature on the written notice of appointment unless there is reason to doubt the representative's intent to accept the appointment.
The notice of appointment is filed at a field office (FO) if the claimant initially filed a claim or requested reconsideration, with the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) if the claimant requested a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ), or with the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) if the claimant has requested a review of an ALJ's decision.
If a claimant or representative files a notice of appointment with OHO or OAO, OHO or OAO staff will follow the procedures in Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-1-1-11 to process the notice of appointment.
For convenience, SSA provides Form SSA-1696, Claimant's Appointment of a Representative, and the electronic SSA-1696 (e1696), but any written document that meets the regulatory requirements under 20 CFR 404.1707 and 416.1507 is a valid notice of appointment.
A written notice of appointment may be combined with or included in another document, such as a contract or a fee agreement, as long as the document meets the requirements of this section. For additional information on the appointment of a representative, refer to POMS GN 03910.040.
B. Changes in Representation
If a claimant changes or adds a representative(s) while a claim is pending review with OHO or OAO, the claimant must submit a notice of appointment for the new representative and as applicable, submit a signed statement revoking the appointment of the prior representative if the claimant no longer wants that representative's services. See HALLEX I-1-1-30 for how a claimant revokes a representative's appointment and guidance on processing the change of representation.
C. Appointing Multiple Representatives
A claimant may appoint more than one individual to serve as a representative but must appoint in writing each representative individually and must specify a principal representative. OHO or OAO staff must timely document the designation or update of a principal representative. For more information about designating and updating a principal representative in a multiple representative situation, see HALLEX I-1-1-11 C.
We will only approve a fee agreement if all appointed representatives have signed a single fee agreement, unless those who have not signed have waived charging and collecting a fee. See HALLEX I-1-2-12. For more information about the statutory conditions for approval of fee agreements and their exceptions, see HALLEX I-1-2-12.
D. An Organization Cannot Be a Representative
SSA does not recognize organizations (e.g., firms, partnerships, or other entities) as representatives. Therefore, a claimant must specify an individual or individuals within an organization as the appointed representative(s).
If a claimant names an organization, and an individual working for the organization signs the notice of appointment, SSA will recognize that individual as the claimant's representative. If the notice of appointment is filed with OHO or OAO, OHO or OAO staff will follow the procedures in HALLEX I-1-1-11 B to process the appointment. However, if a notice of appointment names an organization, but the appointment notice does not identify an individual working for the organization, the appointment is not valid. OHO or OAO staff must return the notice of appointment to the organization with an explanation that an appointment must name a specific individual or individuals.
OHO or OAO staff must document the return of the notice of appointment using a Form SSA-5002, Report of Contact (ROC), and associate the ROC with the B section of the claim(s) folder.
If a claimant signs a blank notice of appointment with an organization and that organization subsequently names an individual under its employment on the notice, SSA will recognize the named individual as the claimant's representative if the evidence establishes the claimant was aware of and consented to the representative's actual or potential appointment.