I-2-6-10.Hearing Procedures — Foreign Language Interpreters
Last Update: 6/25/20 (Transmittal I-2-237)
The administrative law judge (ALJ) will determine whether an interpreter is necessary at a hearing, as described in Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-1-70 A. The ALJ will ensure a qualified interpreter, meeting the criteria of HALLEX I-2-1-70 B, is available, when a claimant or appointed representative requests an interpreter or when a claimant or witness indicates the need for an interpreter, whether before or during the hearing.
An interpreter is considered available either when an in-person interpreter is located at the agency site or when a telephone interpreter is connected via telephone.
A claimant or witness may indicate a need for a qualified interpreter, as set forth in HALLEX I-2-1-70 A. In addition, an interpreter may be needed if it becomes clear that a claimant or witness has difficulty understanding or communicating in English and such difficulty will affect the ability of the ALJ to inquire fully into the issues.
If before or during the hearing, the ALJ determines that the testimony of a claimant or witness with limited proficiency in English is needed to inquire fully into the issues, the ALJ will ensure that a qualified interpreter is available for the entirety of the hearing.
If the determination is made during the hearing, the ALJ will stop the proceedings until he or she can ensure that a qualified interpreter, meeting the criteria in HALLEX I-2-1-70 B, is available throughout the remainder of the hearing.
Depending on the circumstances, the ALJ may adjourn the hearing proceedings temporarily to call the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS) and request a telephone interpreter. For instructions on how to obtain an interpreter through TIS, see HALLEX I-2-1-70 C.
If a claimant or appointed representative withdraws a prior request for an interpreter, either before or at the hearing, the ALJ may proceed without an interpreter if, based on the information provided and the facts of the case, the ALJ finds an interpreter is not necessary for a full and fair hearing. Any such withdrawal must be in a writing associated with the record (and exhibited) or must be obtained on the record during the hearing.
B. Certification for the Record
The ALJ is not required to certify any interpreter provided by TIS, because the agency certifies interpreters provided by TIS under a blanket purchase agreement. However, for interpreters hired under the micro-purchasing procedures referenced in HALLEX I-2-1-70 C.1., the ALJ will certify the interpreter on the record, either during the hearing by administering an oath, or in writing. In addition, when the ALJ uses an interpreter provided by the claimant, witness, necessary party, or representative, the ALJ will certify the interpreter using the following procedures.
1. Certifying an interpreter during the hearing
To certify an interpreter on the record during the hearing, the ALJ will verify the interpreter's name, address, and telephone number, and administer an oath that requires the interpreter to certify “under penalty of perjury” that:
He or she has no prior relationship to the claimant or any other party testifying during the hearing (as relevant);
He or she is not acting as the legal representative for the claimant; and
To the best of his or her ability, he or she will interpret the proceedings accurately and completely, including all questions and responses, will not assume or infer facts or dates when interpreting, and will not change the original meaning of any questions or answers.
For more information about administering oaths and affirmations, see HALLEX I-2-6-54.
2. Certifying an interpreter in writing
To certify an interpreter in writing, the ALJ may use Form SSA-795 (Statement of Claimant or Other Person) or another written statement with the following information:
Interpreter's name, address, and telephone number;
A statement that includes the following language: “I am acting as an interpreter for (individual's name) to perform the specific function of providing accurate interpretation at the hearing. I solemnly (swear or affirm) under penalty of perjury that I will interpret the proceedings accurately and completely, including all questions and responses, will not assume or infer facts or dates when interpreting, and will not change the original meaning of any questions or answers,”;
A statement that the interpreter has no prior relationship to the claimant or any other party testifying during the hearing;
A statement that the interpreter is not 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; and
The interpreter's signature.
If an interpreter refuses to provide the required certification, the ALJ doubts an interpreter's qualifications, or the ALJ suspects fraudulent activity, then the ALJ must adjourn or postpone the hearing until the ALJ is able to obtain the services of a qualified interpreter.
If the ALJ suspects fraudulent activity involving an interpreter, the ALJ will also refer the matter to the Office of the Inspector General using the instructions in HALLEX I-1-3-9.
C. Accurate and Complete Interpretation
Prior to obtaining testimony, the ALJ will certify the interpreter, as required by section B above. This will ensure that the interpreter will provide a complete and accurate interpretation of the witness' testimony, including all questions and answers, without assuming or inferring facts or dates, and without changing the original meaning of the questions or answers. The ALJ will also instruct the interpreter not to add personal comments to the interpretation.
When obtaining testimony, the ALJ will direct all questions and comments to the person providing testimony and not to the interpreter. The ALJ will phrase questions and comments as simply as possible and avoid using idiomatic or slang expressions when questioning hearing participants.
If, while translating, an interpreter changes the form of the question to the third person (that is, uses “he” or “she” instead of “I”), the ALJ will instruct the interpreter, on the record, to correct the interpretation and caution the interpreter against the practice.
D. Difficulties With Interpretation
If any participant in the hearing has difficulty understanding the interpretation, or the claimant or the witness objects to the accuracy of the interpretation provided, then the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is receiving a full and fair hearing.
If the ALJ concludes the claimant is receiving a full and fair hearing, the ALJ will note the objection on the record, proceed with the hearing, and address the objection during the hearing or in the decision.
If the ALJ concludes the claimant is not receiving a full and fair hearing, the ALJ will adjourn or postpone the hearing until the services of a qualified interpreter are obtained. Depending on the circumstances, the ALJ may adjourn the hearing temporarily to call TIS and request a telephone interpreter.
For instructions on how to report a problem with the interpretation provided by a vendor interpreter, see HALLEX I-2-1-70 C.