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Representing Social Security Claimants
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Every person has the right to be represented by an attorney or other representative while pursuing a claim or other rights under Titles II, XVI, and XVIII of the Social Security Act. This site contains information and links to assist both claimants and their representatives through the benefit and appeals processes.
Representatives should use one channel only (online, mail, or fax to submit appointment-related forms and/or other evidentiary documents. Duplicate submissions may result in delays in processing the documents.
On July 29, 2020, we updated the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) procedures on collateral estoppel determinations that updates and clarifies our policy, including that the jurisdiction lies solely with the Disability Determination Services (DDS) for initial and recon claims.
The updates to collateral estoppel are in sections DI 11011.001, DI 12045.005, and DI 27515.000. It applies to all new filings and pending claims on or after July 29, 2020.
Temporary procedure announced for written notices of appointment and fee agreements to enhance flexibility during the COVID-19 emergency
On May 21, 2020, we announced temporary procedures to allow claimants to use different methods to sign the notice of appointment of a representative and fee agreement, if the fee agreement is submitted with the new notice of appointment, during the current COVID-19 health emergency. While these procedures are in place, if we receive an appointment document (e.g., Form SSA 1696) and the claimant’s signature does not appear to be in pen-and-ink (e.g., looks like an electronic signature), we will make three attempts to contact the claimant to verify his or her identity and confirm the signature. If we verify the identity and signature, we will process the appointment as usual. If we cannot reach the claimant and he or she does not return our call, or does not verify the signature, we will return the paperwork to the person who submitted it without recognizing the appointment.
We also have temporary procedures in place permitting claimants to verbally appoint a representative during a “remote” telephone hearing with an administrative law judge, if they subsequently submit a written notice of appointment. In this situation, we also will accept an alternate (e.g., electronic) format of the claimant’s signature on the written appointment notice, but without the need for additional telephone contact.
These temporary procedures and more details can be found at COVID-19 Temporary Instructions.
On February 11, 2020, we published a revised version of the SSA-1696 (Claimant’s Appointment of a Representative). The revised form also collects direct payment information previously collected on the Form SSA-1695 (now obsolete) using registered representatives’ credentials (RepID). Representatives who are eligible for and wish to receive direct payment of their fee, no longer need to use a second form or provide their Social Security Numbers to give us the needed information. With the incorporation of the RepID, we can no longer accept multiple names on a single notice of appointment. You can find the revised form on our website in a fillable format. We also created two supplemental forms for revocations and withdrawals (SSA-1696-SUP1, Claimant’s Revocation of the Appointment of a Representative and SSA-1696-SUP2, Representative’s Withdrawal of Acceptance of an Appointment respectively).
If you do not remember your RepID, you can find it by logging into your account online or by calling 1-800-772-6270 or our TTY number at 1-800-325-0078.
On December 18, 2018, we published a new optional form, claimants and their appointed representatives may use to document their fee agreements and obtain our authorization for their fees through the fee agreement process. The Form SSA-1693 “Fee Agreement for Representation before the Social Security Administration” is not mandatory, but we believe its use will be a convenience to the users and will streamline our fee review process. The new form is available in a fillable format. While its use is not required, it does help us collect information that is required for processing fee requests under the fee agreement process. For this and other recommendations, see our updated best practices and tips sheet.
The Office of Hearings Operation (OHO) is reporting great success with its Representative Video Project (RVP) initiative. In 2008, OHO introduced the RVP that allows representatives and their clients to participate in Administrative Law Judge hearings from their own office video sites. OHO signed up a certified RVP site and held the first hearing using the RVP site in October of that year. Since that time, RVP initiative has expanded to 114 certified RVP sites nationwide, which have held over 33,000 RVP hearings. This initiative saves valuable time and reduces costs to attend a hearing.
A claimant may appoint a qualified individual to represent him or her in doing business with Social Security. The appointment must be in writing and must be filed with SSA. If the claimant appoints a representative, the representative generally cannot charge or collect a fee for those services without first getting written approval from the Social Security Administration, even if the claim is denied. To get this approval, the representative must use one of Social Security's fee authorization processes.
If you are helping someone prepare an Internet Social Security Benefit Application:
- You cannot electronically sign the application on behalf of the applicant. Only the person you are helping can electronically sign his or her Internet Social Security Benefit Application and attest to the accuracy of the information provided.
- If you submit the online application on behalf of the applicant, the agency will attempt to contact him or her directly by telephone to verify the applicant’s intent to file, confirm the information provided, and to give him or her the opportunity to provide a verbal signature for the application and other relevant documents. We will also mail the applicant a copy of the Application Summary, which he or she can sign and return to us instead using the telephone signature process.
- If the applicant wishes to appoint you as his or her official representative, we will need a written statement appointing you to represent him or her in dealings with Social Security. You may use a Form SSA-1696 (Appointment of Representative) for this purpose.
If you are helping someone appeal a denied disability application, depending on the reason, you may be required to file the appeal online. If the application is denied for:
- Medical reasons, and you are requesting and eligible for direct fee payment, the Appeal Request and Appeal Disability Report must be completed and submitted online.
- Non-medical reasons, contact their local Social Security Office or call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, to request an appeal. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can call our toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.
Learn more about how we use the forms above, as they relate to registration for appointed representative services and direct payment of fees.
Prior to charging or collecting a fee from a claimant or a third party for services provided in any proceeding before the Social Security Administration (SSA), a representative generally must obtain SSA's authorization.
The regulations at 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1720 and 416.1520 provide that when a third-party entity pays the representative's fee and certain conditions are met, the SSA does not need to authorize the representative's fee. SSA does not need to authorize the fee under the following conditions:
- The claimant and any auxiliary beneficiaries are free of direct or indirect financial liability to pay a fee or expenses, either in whole or in part, to a representative or to someone else; and
- A third-party entity, or a government agency from its own funds, pays the fee and expenses incurred, if any, on behalf of the claimant and any auxiliary beneficiaries; and
- The representative submits to SSA a form SSA-1696 (or a written statement) waiving the right to charge and collect a fee and expenses from the claimant and any auxiliary beneficiaries as specified in GN 03920.020B.3b.
Note: When a representative wants to request a fee from the claimant(s)/auxiliary beneficiary(ies) and a third-party, we must authorize all fees since the above criteria are not met (i.e., claimant or auxiliary beneficiaries are liable for a fee), hence the representative should disclose any payments from a third-party prior to authorization.