I-1-6-15.Congressional and Public Affairs Branch (CPAB) Congressional Response Instructions

Last Update: 6/2/20 (Transmittal I-1-97)

A. Congressional Inquiry by Telephone

1. Calls Requiring One CPAB Action

In regards to telephone calls from congressional staff members, CPAB's action is complete when:

  • The congressional staff member requests only general information and CPAB provides the information;

  • CPAB provides the requested information and the congressional staff member states that he or she does not need follow-up status reports; or

  • CPAB refers the congressional staff member to another office.

In these circumstances, CPAB staff will not prepare a Telephone Report/Request (TR/R) (SSA-1531-U1). Instead, CPAB will record the call as a stroke tally on a “Calls Without Write-ups Report” form.

2. Calls Requiring Multiple CPAB Actions

Telephone congressional inquiries about specific cases usually require follow-up actions. On initial receipt of a congressional inquiry by telephone, receiving CPAB staff will:

  • Explain that the call will be returned within 48 hours;

  • Obtain an Appeals Review Processing System (ARPS) query;

  • Obtain an Electronic Management of Assignments and Correspondence (EMAC) query; and

  • Prepare a TR/R. The TR/R must include the names of the Member of Congress and staff member, the telephone number, and the claimant's name and Social Security number. The TR/R must also note exactly what information the staff member requested.

Congressional inquiries are usually assigned to CPAB staff on a rotating basis. However, if a CPAB employee has an open inquiry on the case or previously handled an inquiry on the case, the same CPAB employee will be assigned to handle the new inquiry.

The assigned CPAB employee will return the call within 48 hours. When returning the call, the CPAB employee will:

  • Convey case status, advise that CPAB will provide status reports every 60 to 90 days, and explain that CPAB will send a written response when the Appeals Council (AC) issues its action;

  • Annotate the TR/R with the information provided to the congressional staff member and enter the type and date of the response into EMAC; and

  • Activate the congressional interest “CONG” case characteristic in ARPS.

3. Critical Case Allegations

If a caller alleges a case meets the criteria for critical case processing (see Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-3-1-5), the CPAB employee will:

  • Obtain as much information as possible from the caller and, if necessary, request documentation to support the allegation;

  • Complete a Form SSA-2367-U3, Telephone Request/Written Request Critical Cases;

  • Make a determination as to whether or not the case will be deemed critical based on the critical criteria for expediting cases in HALLEX I-3-1-5;

  • Activate the appropriate “critical” case characteristic in ARPS; and

  • Scan the SSA-2367-U3 and all pertinent correspondence into eView. If it is a paper case, the CPAB employee will attach a blue route slip to the materials, along with a green critical flag, and send the information to the appropriate Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) branch.

4. Case is Pending in a Field Office (FO) or Hearing Office (HO)

If the inquiry concerns a case pending in an FO or HO, the CPAB employee will:

  • Provide the case status to the congressional staff member;

  • Inform the component of the congressional interest and any critical allegations, if appropriate; and

  • Forward the TR/R and correspondence to the component for further handling.

B. Written Congressional Inquiry

Designated CPAB staff handles incoming written congressional inquiries. CPAB receives written congressional inquiries by mail, fax, or email.

1. Receipt of Inquiry

When CPAB receives a written inquiry, a CPAB employee will:

  • Date-stamp the inquiry;

  • Obtain an ARPS and EMAC query; and

  • Place the inquiry and the queries in a control folder.

NOTE:

If the case is pending in an FO or HO, the CPAB employee will prepare a response noting the component with jurisdiction of the case and any available status. The CPAB employee will then forward the response and inquiry to the appropriate component for further response.

Designated CPAB staff will:

  • Identify allegations of a critical condition or a dire need situation that requires expedited case processing (see HALLEX I-3-1-5). If deemed critical, the inquiries are then assigned to CPAB employees who handle telephone calls for further development;

  • Identify questions regarding policy, processing times, or personnel matters, and, as appropriate, forward the inquiry to the Executive Communications Staff for action (see HALLEX I-1-6-10 A); and

  • Enter all pertinent information into EMAC, assign the inquiry to a CPAB employee and staple the EMAC Case Data sheet on the front of the control folder.

2. Initial Response

Congressional inquiries are usually assigned to CPAB staff on a rotating basis. However, if a CPAB employee has an open inquiry on the case or previously handled an inquiry on the case, the same CPAB employee will be assigned to handle the new inquiry.

The assigned CPAB employee will release an initial written response to the congressional inquiry within 7 calendar days of receiving the inquiry. The CPAB employee assigned to respond to the matter will:

  • Analyze the inquiry to determine what information the inquirer knows and what is being requested;

  • Use available queries and conduct other research to provide the status of the case to the inquiring party; and

  • If necessary, contact the appropriate component to obtain further information or to resolve any discrepancies.

Further, if the case is pending in an OAO branch, the assigned CPAB employee will:

  • Activate the congressional interest “CONG” case characteristic in ARPS; and

  • Add the inquiry to the claim(s) file.

NOTE:

If the claim(s) file is paper, the CPAB employee will attach a blue route slip to any pertinent information provided by the congressional office, and forward the inquiry to the OAO branch. If the claim(s) file is electronic, the CPAB employee will scan the information directly into eView.

When the assigned CPAB employee completes all development and is ready to provide a written response to the congressional office, the employee will:

  • Select the appropriate macro from CPAB's Document Generation System (DGS) (modifying the macro, if necessary, to ensure that all questions are answered); and

  • When a response letter is approved and ready for release, CPAB staff will release one original copy to the congressional office and scan the letter into eView along with the incoming correspondence.

3. Interim Response

The assigned CPAB employee will provide a written interim response to the congressional office every 60 to 90 days until the AC is ready to issue its final action.

4. Final Response

a. Electronic Claim(s) File

When the AC has prepared a final action document (or, when applicable, the interim notice document), the OAO branch placing the case in CPAB status notifies CPAB by email so it can prepare a written response for the Member of Congress. Once CPAB has prepared a response for the Member of Congress, it will scan the response into eView. CPAB will date and release the congressional response to the Member of Congress close in time to the release of the AC final action document (or, when applicable, the interim notice document) to the claimant and appointed representative, if any.

b. Paper Claim(s) File

The applicable OAO branch located in Falls Church, Virginia will forward the claim(s) with the AC's final action document (or, when applicable, the interim notice document) to CPAB. CPAB will prepare the congressional response, put it in a red folder inside the claim(s) file, and send the claim(s) file back to the OAO branch. CPAB will date and release the congressional response to the Member of Congress close in time to the release of the AC final action document (or, when applicable, the interim notice document) to the claimant and appointed representative, if any.

The applicable OAO branch not located in Falls Church will fax the AC action document to CPAB. CPAB will prepare the congressional response. CPAB will date and release the congressional response to the Member of Congress close in time to the release of the AC final action document (or, when applicable, the interim notice document) to the claimant and appointed representative, if any.