Representing Social Security Claimants

Electronic Records Express
Frequently Asked Questions
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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.

Important Reminder

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.

News Update

On October 5, 2020 we published a Federal Register Notice “Requiring Electronic Submission of Evidence by Certain Claimant Representatives." This notice announces a new requirement that all representatives who request direct fee payment must submit all evidence electronically in Title II and XVI disability claims using either Electronic Records Express (ERE), Appointed Representative Services (ARS) or iAppeals if the case is electronic and is pending at either the hearings or Appeals Council levels. The new requirement will be effective on November 4, 2020, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Expanded Access to the Electronic File at the Initial and Reconsideration Levels

On 9/19/2020, we expanded access to the electronic claim file (eFolder) to include claims at the initial and reconsideration levels, as well as continuing disability review cases. A representative can now view documents in the Disability Related Development (section E) and Medical Evidence (section F) sections of the eFolder after we receive and process the written notice of appointment. If accessing a case at the initial or the reconsideration level is not possible, it is likely that we have not received or processed the appointment.

Access to documents at these levels is available to all appointed representatives who are already registered for eFolder access. We will continue the current process of registering representatives that have at least one case pending at the hearings level; however, representatives who are only appointed to cases at the initial and reconsideration levels are not eligible to register for eFolder access at this time.

It is important to remember that attempts within a 24-hour period, to access 10 records (Social Security Numbers) to which the representative is not appointed, will result in an account lockout, so representatives are advised to wait until they receive the notice confirming that we received and processed their appointment before accessing a record. A representative whose account has been blocked must contact the Electronic Records Express (ERE) Helpdesk to unblock the account.

Collateral Estoppel

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 reconsideration 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.

New version of form SSA-1696

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.

How Representatives Can Help

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:

Information for Third Party Entities that Pay Representational 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.