Case managers, SSA and DDS share a common goal – to facilitate accurate and timely disability determinations. People experiencing homelessness are often denied benefits because SSA requires more information, but is unable to reach the applicant.
By serving as the applicant's representative, a case manager helps the individual develop and submit complete and accurate information, and also helps SSA and DDS obtain information needed for an appropriate determination. Form SSA-1696: Appointment of Representative (PDF) is used to establish the role as representative.
What is a representative?
- If the case manager were simply a contact person, a release of information would suffice. However, SSA law allows any individual, if he or she qualifies, to act on behalf of an applicant for benefits as an advocate. This:
Allows a representative to have open communication lines with SSA and DDS
Provides case managers with authorization to help an applicant more effectively
Serving as representative helps applicants
As a representative you are more than a contact person. This allows you to:
- Receive copies of all notices sent to applicants
- Communicate directly with SSA and DDS to provide additional information needed and obtain records from the applicant's files
- If SSA denies the application, you may help the applicant to file an appeal
Changing, withdrawing and revoking a representative
- If a case manager is no longer able to work with an applicant (because he or she no longer works for the agency, the applicant is no longer receiving services from the agency, or for any other reason), the case manager can withdraw his or her representation.
- An applicant can also revoke the appointment and dismiss a representative from his or her case at any time during the application process if he or she no longer wishes to work with that person.
- A signed and dated letter must be sent to SSA by whomever (representative or applicant) is requesting the withdrawal or revocation. See a sample Withdrawal of Representation letter here (DOC).
- Representation cannot be transferred, so if a new case manager is going to take over as representative, he or she and the applicant must sign a new SSA-1696 and submit it to the local SSA field office.
SSA has rules of professional conduct and responsibility for those who serve as representatives, and the agencies for which they work. For example, the case manager and agency must not:
- Knowingly provide false information or make false statements
- Deliberately delay the process
- Share the applicant's personal information without permission
- Violate the law, assist or advise others to do so
- For a complete list, see the Social Security Administration's Code of Federal Regulations
In addition, becoming a representative does not mean that the case manager
Has liability for DDS’s decision
- Is the applicant's representative payee (a person or agency who assists recipients in financially managing their benefits)
Agencies and case managers are often concerned about liability for the decision regarding disability.
- Case managers and their agencies are not liable for the decision on the application; SSA and DDS make the decision
- Representatives are required to provide information that is true and correct to the best of their knowledge
Technically, an applicant can have more than one representative, but it is not recommended. The SOAR process stresses the importance of the case manager acting as the representative and the central point of contact.
- Only the primary representative receives copies of correspondence
- It is important for the case manager to be the primary representative and therefore the central point of contact
- Under certain circumstances, a case manager does not serve as the primary representative but supports and collaborates with the primary representative (e.g. when the applicant is working with a lawyer)
Serving as a representative during the application process does not make a case manager the individual’s representative payee if they are required by SSA to have one.
- The representative payee appointment process is completely independent from the representation process for pending applications
- Representative payees are identified by the recipient of benefits and appointed by SSA to help the recipient manage their funds if SSA determines they are unable to do so