Revisions to Rules on Representation of Parties, 51963-51983 [E8-20500]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules rule were requested on or before September 23, 2008. Extension of Comment Period In response to the proposed rule published in the Federal Register, CBP has received correspondence from several parties requesting an extension of the comment period. A decision has been made to grant an extension of 30 days. Comments are now due on or before October 23, 2008. Dated: September 2, 2008. Harold M. Singer, Director, Regulations and Disclosure Law Division, Regulations and Rulings, Office of International Trade. Timothy E. Skud, Deputy Assistant Secretary (Tax, Trade and Tariff Policy), Office of Tax Policy, United States Treasury Department. [FR Doc. E8–20662 Filed 9–5–08; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9111–14–P SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION 20 CFR Parts 404, 408, 416, and 422 [Docket No. SSA–2007–0068] RIN 0960–AG56 Revisions to Rules on Representation of Parties Social Security Administration. ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking. sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS AGENCY: SUMMARY: We are proposing several revisions to our rules on representation of parties. These proposed rules would recognize entities as representatives, define the concept of a principal representative, and authorize principal representatives to sign and file a claim for benefits on behalf of a claimant. These proposed rules would also mandate the use of Form SSA–1696 to appoint, revoke, or withdraw an appointment of a representative, and to waive a fee or direct payment of the fee. We propose to define the concept of a professional representative and require professional representatives to use our electronic services as they become available, including requiring professional representatives to submit certain requests for reconsideration or a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) electronically. Finally, we propose to require representatives to keep paper copies of certain documents that we may require. We are proposing these revisions to reflect changes in representatives’ business practices and to improve our efficiency by enhancing use of the Internet. DATES: To make sure that your comments are considered, we must VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 receive them no later than November 7, 2008. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any one of four methods—Internet, facsimile, regular mail, or handdelivery. Commenters should not submit the same comments multiple times or by more than one method. Regardless of which of the following methods you choose, please state that your comments refer to Docket No. SSA–2007–0068 to ensure that we can associate your comments with the correct regulation: 1. Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov. (This is the most expedient method for submitting your comments, and we strongly urge you to use it.) In the Search Documents section of the Web page, type ‘‘SSA– 2007–0068’’, select ‘‘Go’’, and then click ‘‘Send a Comment or Submission.’’ The Federal eRulemaking portal issues you a tracking number when you submit a comment. 2. Telefax to (410) 966–2830. 3. Letter to the Commissioner of Social Security, P.O. Box 17703, Baltimore, MD 21235–7703. 4. Deliver your comments to the Office of Regulations, Social Security Administration, 922 Altmeyer Building, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21235–6401, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on regular business days. All comments are posted on the Federal eRulemaking portal, although they may not appear for several days after receipt of the comment. You may also inspect the comments on regular business days by making arrangements with the contact person shown in this preamble. Caution: All comments we receive from members of the public are available for public viewing on the Federal eRulemaking portal at http:// www.regulations.gov. Therefore, you should be careful to include in your comments only information that you wish to make publicly available on the Internet. We strongly urge you not to include any personal information, such as your Social Security number or medical information, in your comments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marg Handel, Supervisory Social Insurance Specialist, Office of Income Security Programs, Social Security Administration, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21235–6401, (410) 965–4639. For information on eligibility or filing for benefits, call our national toll-free number, 1–800–772– 1213 or TTY 1–800–325–0778, or visit our Internet site, Social Security Online, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51963 Electronic Version The electronic file of this document is available on the date of publication in the Federal Register at http:// www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html. Explanation of Changes Background We may issue rules and regulations to administer the provisions of the Act. 42 U.S.C. 405(a), 902(a)(5), 810(a), and 1383(d)(1). Specifically, we may issue regulations to recognize agents or other persons, other than attorneys, as representatives of individuals claiming benefits under the programs we administer. 42 U.S.C. 406(a)(1) and 1383(d)(2). We may also issue regulations to administer the Special Benefits for Certain World War II Veterans program, 42 U.S.C. 1010, and we have extended the rules by which we appoint and discipline representatives for claims under that program except where to do so would be impractical or contrary to the Act. 20 CFR 408.1101. Pursuant to the cited authority, we propose to revise our current regulations on Representation of Parties found in part 404 subparts G, J, and R, part 408 subpart K, part 416 subparts C, N, and O, and part 422 subparts C and F. Recognizing Entities as Representatives Individuals who want to obtain benefits from us may want someone to help them through the application process. Frequently, such claimants formally appoint a representative to act on their behalf and help guide their claim. A representative may, on behalf of a claimant, obtain and submit information and evidence about the claim, make statements about facts and law, and make requests or give notices about the claim to us. In return, the representative may receive a fee for their services from a portion of the claimant’s past-due benefits. Currently, we recognize attorneys or other ‘‘persons’’ as representatives of individuals who claim benefits under title II or title XVI of the Act. 42 U.S.C. 406(a)(1) and 1383(d)(1). Although the term ‘‘person’’ is defined broadly in the Act to include partnerships, corporations, and associations, we have previously chosen to recognize only individuals as representatives of claimants. In the decades since we adopted that policy, the business practices of those who represent claimants have changed significantly. Many representatives now practice in group settings and provide their services collectively to claimants. In addition, many claimants may prefer to hire a E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 51964 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS firm rather than a single individual within the firm. Recognizing entities as representatives will make it easier for individuals to obtain the representation they want. We believe it is appropriate for us to propose to amend our rules to more accurately reflect the changes in the way representatives conduct their businesses. Under our current process, we require the filing of a new Form SSA–1696, Appointment of Representative, to appoint each individual associated with an entity who represents a claimant before us. By recognizing entities as representatives, we will give claimants better flexibility to pursue their claims by not requiring the filing of a new Form SSA–1696 for each entity employee who represents a claimant during the claims process. This proposal will allow entities who represent claimants to alternate employees to represent a claimant based on availability and workload. However, an entity will be bound by the signatures and actions of its employees during their association with the entity, regardless of whether that association ends at a later date. If the claimant appoints an entity as his or her representative, the entity employee who signs the Form SSA–1696 on behalf of the entity will be considered the contact person for the entity for the purpose of receiving notices and information from us until or unless the entity updates its contact person information. The proposed change also will allow us to properly pay entities for the representational services they provide to claimants, if certain conditions are met. It also makes our reporting to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the issuance of Form IRS 1099-MISC to entities more efficient. We propose to permit ‘‘direct payment’’ of fees to entities if the employees who perform representational services on their behalf meet our requirements for direct payment. 42 U.S.C. 406 and the Social Security Protection Act of 2004 (SSPA), Public Law 108–203, section 301. We propose to include these rules in §§ 404.1703, 404.1710, 404.1712, 404.1715, 404.1720, 404.1730, 404.1732, 416.1503, 416.1510, 416.1512, 416.1515, 416.1520, 416.1530, and 416.1732. We also propose to make conforming changes to other sections. Multiple Representatives and the Role of a Principal Representative We propose new rules explaining our current policy that a claimant may appoint multiple representatives to represent him or her at the same time. A claimant may appoint one or more individuals or entities to work on his or VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 her claim at the same time. A principal representative is responsible for disseminating information and requests from us to a claimant and the claimant’s other representatives, if any. It is our current practice to require a claimant to appoint a principal representative only if the claimant appoints more than one representative. We now propose to require that a claimant choose and appoint a principal representative. If a claimant appoints only one representative, that individual or entity is the principal representative. If a principal representative’s authority ends for any reason, and the claimant continues to be represented by only one appointed representative, we will consider that appointed representative to be the claimant’s principal representative until the claimant files a new Form SSA–1696 with us designating another principal representative. If a principal representative’s authority ends for any reason, and the claimant continues to be represented by multiple representatives, we will name one of the appointed representatives as the principal representative. The claimant may change the principal representative by filing a new Form SSA–1696. We also propose to allow principal representatives to sign and file applications on behalf of claimants, provided the claimant has opportunity to review and verify the accuracy of the completed application. We expect this change to expedite the claims filing process, simplify the application process for some claimants, and afford the principal representative the opportunity to better serve the client. However, a claimant will have to expressly acknowledge on the Form SSA–1696 that he or she is responsible for the information provided to the principal representative for the application. We believe that this type of acknowledgement is necessary to ensure that the claimant remains responsible for the content of the application. We will send to a claimant and his or her representatives notices relating to the appointment of a principal representative and other representatives, the revocation of the appointment of any representative, and the withdrawal of any representative. We will also send notices regarding the release of a claimant’s past-due benefits to any representative who fails to file a request for approval of a fee. Through these changes, we believe that we will better accommodate the needs of claimants and their representatives, that claimants’ representatives will be better able to PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 serve their clients, and that we will process fee payments more efficiently. We propose to include these rules in §§ 404.612, 404.1700, 404.1703, 404.1705, 404.1707, 404.1710, 404.1715, 408.1101, 416.315, 416.1500, 416.1503, 416.1505, 416.1507, 416.1510, and 416.1515. The Role of a Professional Representative We propose to introduce the concept of a professional representative and to distinguish it from a principal representative. A professional representative includes any attorney, any individual other than an attorney, or any entity that holds itself out to the public as providing representational services before us (see §§ 404.1735 and 416.1535), regardless of whether the representative charges or collects a fee for providing the representational services. We also propose to require that professional representatives conduct business with us electronically at the times and in the manner that we prescribe. For example, we intend to require a professional representative to use electronic media that we prescribe, such as the Internet, to register with us and to file certain requests for reconsideration and hearings before an ALJ. We are continuing to improve access for claimants, representatives, and the general public to forms and information about our programs by automating more of our business processes. When we have completed the automation of a specific business process that we intend to require, such as the use of Form SSA–1696, Appointment of Representative, we will announce in the Federal Register that the process has been automated and will be required. If a professional representative cannot access our system because the representative’s system is not functioning, our system is not functioning, the electronic media is not available, or because the representative’s system cannot communicate with our system, we will waive the requirement that the professional representative use the electronic media that we prescribe. If the error is related to the representative’s system rather than our system, we will require some type of documentation explaining why the representative is requesting the waiver. We are particularly interested in receiving public comment on our definition of ‘‘professional representative.’’ While we believe that the proposed definition covers the vast majority of representatives who do E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules business with us, we are interested in receiving public comment on whether our proposed definition adequately includes all relevant organizations. We propose to include these rules in §§ 404.910, 404.934, 404.1703, 404.1707, 404.1713, 416.1410, 416.1434, 416.1503, 416.1507, and 416.1513. sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS Access Registration We propose to require professional representatives and their employees to complete an initial access registration with us through the use of electronic media that we prescribe. Representatives who are not classified as professional representatives and their employees will also be required to complete an initial access registration with us, but will be permitted to do so either electronically or by other means. Access registration requires representatives and their employees to supply us with certain personal, professional, and business affiliation information that we will use to authenticate and authorize representatives and their employees to do business with us. This initial registration will also require professional representatives and their employees to provide us with specific attestations to ensure that they know, understand, and will comply with our rules and regulations. Access registration is a one-time process, and it will allow us to process each claim more efficiently. However, representatives and their employees must update the access registration if their personal, professional, or business affiliation information changes. The authorization and authentication process will also assist us in safeguarding the personally identifiable information provided to us. We propose to include these rules in §§ 404.1703, 404.1705, 404.1713, 416.1503, 416.1505, and 416.1513. Direct Payment Registration We pay representatives’ fees out of a portion of the past-due benefits for claims under title II of the Act. Under provisions of the SSPA, we also are authorized to withhold and pay fees approved for attorneys in title XVI cases, and to withhold and pay fees approved for certain non-attorney representatives in cases under title II and title XVI of the Act. On October 2, 2006, we published a notice in the Federal Register that advised both attorneys and eligible nonattorney representatives of additional requirements that a representative must meet in order for us to pay some or all of an approved fee directly to the representative from a claimant’s past- VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 due benefits. 71 FR 58043. That notice explained the registration process that a representative must complete in order to receive direct fee payment in a specific claim. We now propose to pay all representative fees via electronic funds transfer. This proposal will allow us to make direct payment of the representative’s fee more efficiently, to more accurately report payments to the IRS, and to issue IRS Form 1099–MISC more quickly. To ensure that we only make direct payments for work done by attorneys and eligible non-attorneys, there are certain actions that must be taken before an entity may receive direct payment of fees. Any entity seeking direct payment of fees must maintain, and provide to us upon our request, a signed statement from each of the entity’s attorneys and eligible non-attorneys who represent claimants before us. The statement must state that the attorney or eligible nonattorney is performing representational services on behalf of the entity. The statement must also assert that any fees should be paid directly to the entity and that the representatives receive any compensation directly from the entity. Any request for direct payment of fees made by an entity must include an attestation that the entity is in possession of this signed statement from each attorney or eligible non-attorney who has performed any representational services for the claim in question. Additionally, the entity must attest that all individuals who have performed representational services on the claim in question are individuals who qualify for direct payment under the Act or the SSPA. Such services include, but are not limited to, representing the claimant at any hearing or proceeding before the Agency or before a Federal court. We also propose to modify our current rules to clarify that we may issue IRS Form 1099–MISC to both individuals and entities for payments over the annual aggregate of $600. We will gather additional information during the registration process to simplify our compliance with the applicable Internal Revenue Service’s regulation, 26 CFR 1.6045–5. We propose to include these changes in §§ 404.1703, 404.1713, 404.1730, 416.1503, 416.1513, and 416.1530. New Requirements to Use Form SSA– 1696 to Appoint or Revoke the Appointment of a Representative and to Waive a Fee, Direct Payment of a Fee, or Both We propose to require that a claimant use Form SSA–1696 to appoint or revoke the appointment of a representative. Similarly, we propose to PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51965 require that a representative use Form SSA–1696 when the representative withdraws from representing a claimant. Currently, when a claimant appoints a representative using Form SSA–1696, we require only non-attorney representatives to sign the Form SSA– 1696. However, we are moving toward an electronic process that will require the ‘‘electronic signature’’ of professional representatives, including attorneys, on the Form SSA–1696. To make the paper process as consistent as possible with the electronic process we envision, we propose to require both the signature of the claimant and the signature of any representative, including an attorney representative, on the paper Form SSA–1696 for the appointment of a representative. Making this change now will permit a seamless transition to the electronic process in the future. We also propose to require a representative to use the Form SSA– 1696 to waive a fee for representing the claimant before us, to waive direct payment of the fee, or both. By standardizing the transaction for these situations to one commonly-used form, we will simplify the process for our claimants and their representatives, and we will be able to manage the appointment, fee authorization, and fee payment processes more efficiently. We also propose to clarify our policies about when a claimant’s appointment of a representative begins and ends. We propose to include these rules in §§ 404.1707, 404.1712, 404.1732, 416.1507, 416.1512, and 416.1532. Internet Appeals We propose to require professional representatives to submit certain requests for administrative appeal electronically at the times and in the manner that we prescribe, e.g., through the Internet. Claimants who are unrepresented or who are represented by individuals who are not classified as professional representatives may continue to file certain requests for reconsideration or an ALJ hearing by submitting either paper forms at one of our offices or using the electronic media we prescribe. We currently are making our Internet Appeals Web portal available for this purpose. That Web portal, which is now being voluntarily used by representatives to file requests for reconsideration and ALJ hearings, can be found at https://secure.ssa.gov/ apps6z/iAppeals/ap001.jsp. By requiring professional representatives to file certain requests for appeal with us electronically, we are following precedent set in the Federal court system. According to the Federal E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 51966 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS judiciary’s Case Management and Electronic Case Files System, as of February 2008, electronic filing systems are in use in 99% of Federal courts, over 31 million cases are maintained on these systems, and more than 320,000 users have filed documents over the Internet. Requiring professional representatives to file certain requests for reconsideration or an ALJ hearing via the Internet is a cost-effective measure that we expect will increase our efficiency and help reduce the disability determination backlog. We do not expect this requirement to impose a burden on professional representatives. Representatives currently use several of our online services extensively, including the online Disability Report and the Electronic Records Express (ERE) system, which allows representatives to submit evidence to the electronic folder. We implemented the Internet Appeals software application in December 2007, and, to date, representatives have filed almost 100,000 appeals electronically. We may expand this electronic process to include appeals to the Appeals Council at a later time. We propose to include these rules in §§ 404.901, 404.909, 404.910, 404.933, 404.934, 404.1740, 416.1401, 416.1409, 416.1410, 416.1433, 416.1434, and 416.1540. New Affirmative Duties for Representatives We propose to add a new affirmative duty for professional representatives and individuals working on their behalf to provide us with specific attestations to ensure they know, understand, and will comply with our rules and regulations. As indicated above, these attestations will be provided during the access registration process. We also propose to add a new affirmative duty for professional representatives, and for non-professional representatives who choose to file the Appointment of Representative form electronically. These representatives must keep, and provide to us upon request, paper copies of the Form SSA–1696 with the original signature of the claimant, the electronic signature of the representative, and the respective dates of the signing. Further, we will require entities to maintain, and provide to us on request, a signed statement from each attorney, eligible non-attorney, and employee. In the statement, they must aver that they are performing all representational services on behalf of the entity, that any fees should be paid directly to the entity, and that they will receive compensation directly from the entity. VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 We also propose to place an affirmative duty on professional representatives to file certain requests for reconsideration or an ALJ hearing using the electronic media that we prescribe. However, if a representative disregards or violates our rules or regulations, we will not penalize the claimant. We will not reject or delay a claimant’s request for appeal or process it differently than a request for appeal submitted correctly. Violation of these affirmative duties may subject the representative to sanctions under 20 CFR 404.1745 and 416.1545. We may ask representatives to provide us with forms, documents, copies of signed statements, and other information to confirm that representatives are complying with our rules. We expect that these changes will create safeguards against fraudulent activity. Consistent with our proposal to recognize entities as representatives and our recognition that the business practices of those who represent claimants have changed significantly, we propose to clarify that an attorney or a non-attorney whom a claimant has not appointed as his representative but who works for or on behalf of the claimant’s appointed representative and helps represent the claimant in his claim before us will also be subject to our rules of conduct and standards of responsibility and our sanctions procedures in 20 CFR 404.1740– 404.1799 and 416.1540–416.1599. We propose to add these rules in §§ 404.1703, 404.1740, 416.1503, and 416.1540. New Prohibited Actions for Representatives We propose to revise our list of prohibited actions to include three additional items: refusing to comply with any of our regulations, violating any section of the Act for which a criminal or civil monetary penalty is prescribed, and assisting another individual whom we have suspended or disqualified. Violation of these prohibited actions may subject the representative, or an attorney or a nonattorney whom a claimant has not appointed as his representative but who works for or on behalf of the claimant’s appointed representative and helps represent the claimant in his claim before us, to sanctions under §§ 404.1745 and 416.1545. We propose to add these rules in §§ 404.1740 and 416.1540. Other Changes We propose several additional changes. First, we propose to clarify that PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 we may reject a claimant’s appointment of a representative if the representative does not meet our requirements and that we will notify the claimant and the claimant’s representative of our decision. §§ 404.903, 404.1705, 416.1403, and 416.1505. Our refusal to accept an appointment of a representative is not an administrative action subject to our administrative review process. Second, we propose to add several new definitions, revise existing definitions, and to move existing definitions from §§ 404.1770 and 416.1570 to §§ 404.1703 and 416.1503. These definitions include the terms: ‘‘disqualify,’’ ‘‘electronic media,’’ ‘‘Federal agency,’’ ‘‘Federal program,’’ ‘‘fee petition,’’ ‘‘person,’’ ‘‘principal representative,’’ ‘‘professional representative,’’ and ‘‘representative.’’ We also propose to add a new definition for ‘‘initial disability claim’’ to §§ 404.901 and 416.1401. Third, we propose in several sections to change references from the Deputy Commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs to the General Counsel and references from the Associate Commissioner for Hearings and Appeals to the Deputy Commissioner for Disability Adjudication and Review to reflect a recent reorganization and a new delegation of authority. Finally, we propose to make other minor conforming changes. Clarity of These Rules Executive Order 12866, as amended, requires each agency to write all rules in plain language. In addition to your substantive comments on these proposed rules, we invite your comments on how to make them easier to understand. For example: • Have we organized the material to suit your needs? • Are the requirements in the rules clearly stated? • Do the rules contain technical language or jargon that isn’t clear? • Would a different format (grouping and order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing) make the rules easier to understand? • Would more (but shorter) sections be better? • Could we improve clarity by adding tables, lists, or diagrams? • What else could we do to make the rules easier to understand? When Will We Start To Use These Rules? We will not use these rules until we evaluate the public comments we E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 51967 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules receive on them, determine whether they should be issued as final rules, and issue final rules in the Federal Register. If we publish final rules, we will explain in the preamble how we will apply them, and summarize and respond to the public comments. Until the effective date of any final rules, we will continue to use our current rules. Regulatory Procedures Executive Order 12866, as Amended We have consulted with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and determined that these proposed rules meet the criteria for a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866, as amended. Therefore, they were reviewed by OMB. Regulatory Flexibility Act We certify that these proposed rules will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Although these proposed rules would require small entities to provide us with certain information and to use available electronic services in certain instances, small entities would not be disadvantaged or limited in their ability to compete with larger competitors. Additionally, these proposed rules do not place significant costs on small entities. It is anticipated that small entities that take advantage of our electronic service delivery may find slight cost savings as a result of increased efficiency. Therefore, a regulatory flexibility analysis as Number of respondents sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS Regulation sections and description 404.612; 404.1710; 416.315; 416.1510—Principal representatives may sign and file applications with SSA on beneficiaries’ behalf. 404.909; 404.910; 404.1740; 416.1409; 416.1410; 416.1540—Disability claimants who wish to request a reconsideration must do so in writing within 60 days after notice of initial determination is received (unless SSA grants a time extension). Parties filing on their own behalf or using non-professional representatives may use SSA’s Internet Web site to submit the request; professional representatives are required to do so. 404.933; 404.934; 416.1433; 416.1434—Disability claimants who wish to request a hearing before an administrative law judge must do so in writing within 60 days after notice of the previous determination/decision is received (unless SSA grants a time extension). Parties filing on their own behalf or using non-professional representatives may use SSA’s Internet Web site to submit the request; professional representatives are required to do so. 404.1740; 416.1540—Professional representatives for disability claimants must always use an SSA-approved form on SSA’s Internet site to request a reconsideration or a hearing before an administrative law judge. 404.1705; 404.1707; 404.1712; 416.1505; 416.1507; 416.1512; 408.1101—Procedures for beneficiary to appoint, change, revoke, or reappoint a representative and for representatives to accept appointment as representative or withdraw as representative. 404.1705; 404.1713; 404.1730; 416.1505; 416.1530; 416.1513—Representative must register with SSA to receive payment. 404.1712; 404.1720; 404.1725; 404.1730; 416.1512; 416.1520; 416.1525; 416.1530—Procedures for representative to sign fee petition; and Representative must file a request with us to charge or receive a fee; and to obtain approval of a fee representative must file a written request with SSA. 404.1715; 416.1515—Principal representatives are responsible for informing other representatives of the beneficiary about any information SSA sent to the principal representative. 404.1728; 416.1528—If representatives provide services to beneficiaries in connection with a hearing/court proceeding before SSA and wants to charge for those services, they must file a request and provide necessary documentation. 404.1732; 415,1532—Representatives may waive the right to charge and collect a fee, direct payment, or both. 404.1740; 416.1540—Procedures requiring representatives to maintain hard copy of certain forms with signatures and dates of signing. 404.1755; 416.1555—If SSA files charges against a representative, the representative may contest these charges. 404.1780; 416.1580—If a party files a brief or other written statement with the Appeals Council, the party should send a copy to the opposite party and certify that they did so. 404.1799; 416.1599—Representatives who were suspended or disqualified should submit any evidence they want the Appeals Council to consider along with their request to be reinstated as a representative. VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 provided in the Regulatory Flexibility Act, as amended, is not required. Paperwork Reduction Act These regulations, which propose several revisions to our rules on Representation of Parties, contain reporting requirements in the regulation sections listed below. For some sections, we previously accounted for the public reporting burdens in the Information Collection Requests for the various forms the public uses to submit the information to SSA. Consequently, in those cases we inserted a 1-hour placeholder burden to these sections. For those sections whose public reporting burdens are not covered by an existing OMB-approved form, we provided burden estimates. Frequency of response Average burden per response (minutes) Estimated annual burden (hours) — — — 1 (placeholder). — — — 1 (placeholder). — — — 1 (placeholder). — — — 1 (placeholder). — — — 1 (placeholder). — — — 1 (placeholder). — — — 1 (placeholder). 56,000 5 2 — — — 1 (placeholder). — — — 1 (placeholder). — — — 1 (placeholder). (1) — — — (1) — — — (1) — — — E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 9,333. 51968 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules Number of respondents Regulation sections and description 422.515—When SSA references ‘‘forms’’ for withdrawal, reconsideration, other appeals, and appointment of representatives, this refers to traditional printed forms, computer screens completed by SSA employees, or electronically submitted forms. 1 Less — — — Estimated annual burden (hours) 1 (placeholder). than 10 respondents. SSA submitted an Information Collection Request to OMB for clearance. We are soliciting comments on the burden estimate; the need for the information; its practical utility; ways to enhance its quality, utility and clarity; and on ways to minimize the burden on respondents, including the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. If you would like to submit comments, please send them to the following locations: Office of Management and Budget, Attn: Desk Officer for SSA, Fax Number: 202–395–6974, E-mail address: OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov Social Security Administration, Attn: Reports Clearance Officer, 1333 Annex Building, 6401 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21235, Fax: 410–965– 6400, E-mail address: OPLM.RCO@ssa.gov. You can submit comments on the paperwork burdens associated with this rule for up to 60 days after publication of this notice; however, they will be most useful if you send them to SSA within 30 days of publication. This does not affect the deadline for the public to comment to SSA on the proposed regulations. To receive a copy of the OMB clearance package, contact the SSA Reports Clearance Office using any of the above contact methods. We prefer to receive comments by e-mail or fax. (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Nos. 96.001, Social Security— Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security—Retirement Insurance; 96.004, Social Security—Survivors Insurance; 96.006, Supplemental Security Income; and 96.020, Special Benefits for Certain World War II Veterans) List of Subjects sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS Average burden per response (minutes) Frequency of response 20 CFR Part 404 Administrative practice and procedure, Blind, Disability benefits, Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Social Security. 20 CFR Part 408 Administrative practice and procedure, Aged, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Social VerDate Aug<31>2005 18:30 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veterans. U.S.C. 421 note); sec. 202, Pub. L. 108–203, 118 Stat. 509 (42 U.S.C. 902 note). 20 CFR Part 416 4. Amend § 404.901 by adding a definition in alphabetical order to read as follows: Administrative practice and procedure, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 20 CFR Part 422 Administrative practice and procedure, Organization and functions (Government agencies), Social Security. Dated: August 27, 2008. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. For the reasons set out in the preamble, we propose to amend 20 CFR parts 404, 408, 416, and 422 as set forth below: PART 404—FEDERAL OLD-AGE, SURVIVORS AND DISABILITY INSURANCE (1950–) Subpart G—[Amended] Authority: Secs. 202(i), (j), (o), (p), and (r), 205(a), 216(i)(2), 223(b), 228(a), and 702(a)(5) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 402(i), (j), (o), (p), and (r), 405(a), 416(i)(2), 423(b), 428(a), and 902(a)(5)). 2. Amend § 404.612 by adding paragraph (h) to read as follows: Who may sign an application. * * * * * (h) Your principal representative (see §§ 404.1705 and 404.1707) may sign and file your application with us. If a principal representative signs an application on your behalf, you are responsible for the accuracy of the information you provide. Subpart J—[Amended] 3. The authority citation for subpart J of Part 404 continues to read as follows: Authority: Secs. 201(j), 204(f), 205(a), (b), (d)–(h), and (j), 221, 223(i), 225, and 702(a)(5) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 401(j), 404(f), 405(a), (b), (d)–(h), and (j), 421, 423(i), 425, and 902(a)(5)); sec. 5, Pub. L. 97–455, 96 Stat. 2500 (42 U.S.C. 405 note); secs. 5, 6(c)– (e), and 15, Pub. L. 98–460, 98 Stat. 1802 (42 PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Definitions. * * * * * Initial disability claim means: (1) An application for benefits that is based on whether you are disabled under title II of the Act, or (2) An application for supplemental security income payments that is based on whether you are disabled or blind under title XVI of the Act. (3) For purposes of this subpart, the term ‘‘initial disability claim’’ does not include a continuing disability review or an age-18 redetermination. * * * * * 5. Amend § 404.903 by revising paragraph (g) to read as follows: § 404.903 Administrative actions that are not initial determinations. * 1. The authority citation for subpart G of part 404 continues to read as follows: § 404.612 § 404.901 * * * * (g) Refusing to recognize, disqualifying, or suspending a person, as defined in § 404.1703, from acting as your representative in a proceeding before us (see §§ 404.1705 and 404.1745); * * * * * 6. Amend § 404.909 by revising the section heading and paragraphs (a) introductory text and (a)(2), and by removing the heading of paragraph (b), to read as follows: § 404.909 How to request reconsideration in claims other than those that involve a denial of an initial disability claim based on medical factors. (a) We will reconsider an initial determination, other than one that involves a denial of your initial disability claim based on medical factors (see § 404.910), if you or any other party to the reconsideration files a written request— * * * * * (2) At one of our offices, the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines, or an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules or at least five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 1995. * * * * * 7. Add a new § 404.910 to read as follows: sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS § 404.910 How to request reconsideration in an initial disability claim that is denied based on medical factors. (a) If you file an initial disability claim, we will reconsider an initial determination that denies your claim based on medical factors if you or any other party to the reconsideration files a written request within 60 days after the date you receive notice of the initial determination and you make your request in accordance with paragraphs (b) or (c) (or within the extended time period if we extend the time as provided in paragraph (d)) of this section. (b) If you have not appointed a representative, or if your representative is not a professional representative, as defined in § 404.1703, you may file your written request for reconsideration either through the electronic media we prescribe, at one of our offices, at the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines, or at an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, or at least five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 1995. (c) If your representative is a professional representative, as defined in § 404.1703, your professional representative must file your written request for reconsideration with us through the electronic media that we prescribe, unless we waive this requirement. (d) If you want a reconsideration of the initial determination that denies your initial disability claim based on medical factors, but do not request one in time, you may ask us for more time to request a reconsideration. Your request for an extension of time must be in writing and must give the reasons why the request for reconsideration was not filed within the stated time period. If you show us that you had good cause for missing the deadline, we will extend the time period. To determine whether good cause exists, we use the standards explained in § 404.911. You must file the request for an extension of time according to the procedures in paragraphs (b) or (c) of this section. 8. Amend § 404.933 by revising the section heading and paragraphs (a) introductory text and (b)(2) to read as follows: VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 § 404.933 How to request a hearing before an administrative law judge in claims other than those that involve a denial of an initial disability claim based on medical factors. (a) Written request. You may request a hearing on your claim, other than one that involves a denial of your initial disability claim based on medical factors (see § 404.934), by filing a written request. You should include in your request— * * * * * (b) * * * (2) At one of our offices, at the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines, or at an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, or at least five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 1995. * * * * * 9. Add a new § 404.934 to read as follows: § 404.934 How to request a hearing before an administrative law judge in an initial disability claim that is denied based on medical factors. (a) If we deny your reconsidered initial disability claim based on medical factors, you may request a hearing by filing a written request. You should include in your request— (1) The name and social security number of the wage earner; (2) The reasons you disagree with the previous determination or decision; (3) A statement of additional evidence to be submitted and the date you will submit it; and (4) The name and address of any designated representative. (b) Your request for a hearing must be filed within 60 days after the date you receive notice of the previous determination or decision (or within the extended time period if we extend the time as provided in paragraph (e) of this section). (c) If you have not appointed a representative, or if your representative is not a professional representative, as defined in § 404.1703, you may file your written request for a hearing either through the electronic media we prescribe, at one of our offices, at the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines, or at an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, or at least five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 1995. (d) If your representative is a professional representative, as defined in § 404.1703, your professional representative must file your written request for a hearing with us through PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51969 the electronic media that we prescribe, unless we waive this requirement. (e) If you have a right to a hearing with respect to a determination or decision that denies your initial disability claim based on medical factors, but you do not request one in time, you may ask for more time to make your request. The request for an extension of time must be in writing and it must give the reasons why the request for a hearing was not filed within the stated time period. If you show that you had good cause for missing the deadline, we will extend the time period. To determine whether good cause exists, we use the standards explained in § 404.911. You must file the request for an extension of time according to the procedures in paragraphs (b) or (c) of this section. Subpart R—[Amended] 10. The authority citation for subpart R of part 404 continues to read as follows: Authority: Secs. 205(a), 206, 702(a)(5), and 1127 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 405(a), 406, 902(a)(5), and 1320a–6); sec. 303, Pub. L. 108–203, 118 Stat. 493. 11. Amend § 404.1700 by revising the introductory text and paragraph (a) to read as follows: § 404.1700 Introduction. You may appoint one or more individuals or entities to represent you in any of your dealings with us. This subpart explains, among other things— (a) Who may be your representative and what your representative’s qualifications must be; * * * * * 12. Revise § 404.1703 to read as follows: § 404.1703 Definitions. As used in this subpart— Access registration means supplying us with personal information that we use to identify you, your representative, or an individual working on behalf of your representative, to authenticate and authorize you, your representative, or an individual working on behalf of your representative to do business with us. Direct payment registration means supplying to us personal, financial institution, and business affiliation information that we use to authorize a representative under certain circumstances to receive direct payment of representative fees via electronic funds transfer. Disqualify refers to an action that prohibits a person from participating in or appearing before a Federal agency or Federal program, regardless of how long E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS 51970 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules the prohibition lasts or the specific terminology used. Electronic media means the electronic media that we prescribe for providing us information, registering with us, and filing with us certain applications, forms, and other documents. Entity means any business, firm, or other association, including but not limited to partnerships, corporations, for-profit organizations, and not-forprofit organizations. Federal agency refers to any authority of the Executive branch of the Government of the United States. Federal program refers to any program established by an Act of Congress or administered in whole or in part by a Federal agency. Fee petition means a written statement signed by the claimant’s representative requesting the fee the representative wants to charge and collect for services the representative provided in pursuing the claimant’s benefit rights in proceedings before us. Past-due benefits means the total amount of benefits under title II of the Act that has accumulated to all beneficiaries because of a favorable administrative or judicial determination or decision, up to but not including the month the determination or decision is made. For purposes of calculating fees for representation, we determine pastdue benefits before any applicable reduction under section 1127 of the Act (for receipt of benefits for the same period under title XVI). Past-due benefits do not include: (1) Continued benefits paid pursuant to § 404.1597a; or (2) Interim benefits paid pursuant to section 223(h) of the Act. Person means an individual or an entity. Principal representative means an attorney who meets all of the requirements of § 404.1705(a), an individual other than an attorney who meets all of the requirements of § 404.1705(b), or an entity that meets all of the requirements under § 404.1705(b), who has been appointed to represent you in dealings with us and who is responsible for disseminating information and requests from us to you and your other representatives, if any. Professional representative means any attorney, any individual other than an attorney, or any entity that holds itself out to the public as providing representational services (see § 404.1735) before us, regardless of whether the representative charges or collects a fee for providing the representational services. Representative means an attorney who meets all of the requirements of VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 § 404.1705(a), an individual other than an attorney who meets all of the requirements of § 404.1705(b), or an entity that meets all of the requirements of § 404.1705(b), whom you appoint to represent you in dealings with us. For purposes of §§ 404.1740 through 404.1799, the term representative also includes an attorney or a non-attorney whom you have not appointed as your representative under the previous sentence but who works for or on behalf of an appointed representative and helps represent you in your claim before us. We, our(s), or us refers to the Social Security Administration. You or your(s) refers to any individual claiming a right under the old-age, disability, dependents’, or survivors’ benefits program. 13. Amend § 404.1705 by removing the heading for paragraphs (a) and (b), revising paragraph (b) introductory text, and adding paragraphs (c) through (g) to read as follows: § 404.1705 Who may be your representative. * * * * * (b) You may appoint any person who is not an attorney to be your representative in dealings with us if the person— * * * * * (c) We may refuse to recognize your appointed representative if the representative does not meet our requirements. We will notify you and your appointed representative if we do not recognize your appointed representative. (d) You may appoint more than one representative to represent you at the same time. (e) You must have a principal representative. When you appoint only one representative, that representative is your principal representative. When you appoint more than one representative you must select one of your appointed representatives as your principal representative. Your principal representative is responsible for disseminating information and requests from us to you and your other representatives, if any, and for providing us information from you and about your claim. You may have only one principal representative at a time. (f) If at any point you are represented by more than one representative and you have not appointed or do not have a principal representative, we will name one of your appointed representatives as your principal representative. You may appoint a different principal representative than the one we name by filing the appropriate form. PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 (g) Each of your representatives, as well as individuals working on their behalf, must complete access registration with us in the manner we prescribe. 14. Revise § 404.1707 to read as follows: § 404.1707 How you appoint and revoke the appointment of a representative. (a) You must use the version of the form we prescribe, electronic or paper, to appoint or revoke the appointment of a representative. (1) If your representative is not a professional representative, and your representative does not want to deal with us through the electronic media we prescribe, we will recognize your appointment of a representative if— (i) Both you and your representative sign the paper form we prescribe; (ii) You choose a principal representative on the form we prescribe at the time of the appointment; and (iii) You or your representative files the signed form with us at one of our offices if you have initially filed a claim or have requested reconsideration; with the hearing office if you have requested a hearing; or with the Appeals Council if you have requested a review of the administrative law judge’s decision. (2) If your representative is a professional representative, or if your representative is not a professional representative but wants to do business with us through the electronic media we prescribe, we will recognize your appointment of a representative if— (i) Your representative electronically signs the form we prescribe, prints the electronically signed form, and you sign the printed copy of the form; (ii) You choose a principal representative on the form we prescribe at the time of the appointment; and (iii) Your representative files the electronic form in the manner we prescribe. (3) If we do not make the electronic form available or we prescribe that the electronic form is not required, then we will recognize your appointment of a professional representative according to the procedures in paragraph (a)(1) of this section. (b) Each time you change your principal representative, you must file a new version of the form we prescribe. (c) If at any point you are represented by more than one representative and you have not appointed or do not have a principal representative, we will name one of your appointed representatives as your principal representative. You may appoint a different principal representative than the one we name by filing the appropriate form. E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules (d) You must file the form we prescribe with us to revoke the appointment of a representative. The date of the revocation is the date on which you file the form with us. We will notify you and your representative that you revoked your representative’s appointment. 15. Amend § 404.1710 by revising paragraphs (a) introductory text and (b) and adding paragraph (c) to read as follows: § 404.1710 Authority of a representative. (a) Your representative may, on your behalf— * * * * * (b) Your principal representative may also sign and file an application on your behalf for rights or benefits under title II of the Act, as described in § 404.612(h). (c) If you appoint an entity as your representative, any document related to the claim that is signed by a registered employee of the entity is binding on that entity, even if the employee’s association with the entity ends. 16. Add a new § 404.1712 to read as follows: sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS § 404.1712 When the appointment of your representative begins and ends. (a) The appointment of your representative begins on the date that you and your representative sign the form we prescribe appointing your representative as described in § 404.1707. However, we will not recognize your appointment of a representative or deal with your representative until you or your representative file(s) the signed form with us. (b) If your appointed representative is an individual, the individual’s authority continues until the earliest of the following actions occur— (1) You file the prescribed form with us revoking the appointment of your representative; (2) Your representative files the prescribed form with us withdrawing as your representative; (3) We have made a final determination or decision on your claim and the claims of any auxiliary beneficiary, the period in which you or your representative could appeal our determination or decision has ended, and you or your representative, or the auxiliary beneficiary, if any, did not file an appeal before the end of that period; (4) Your representative files a fee petition requesting our authorization to charge and collect a fee (see §§ 404.1720 and 404.1725); (5) We have closed out any application that was started by you or VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 on your behalf but was not pursued within the time period we prescribe; (6) We disqualify or suspend your representative; or (7) Your representative dies. (c) If your appointed representative is an entity, the entity’s authority continues until the earliest of the following actions occur— (1) You file the prescribed form with us revoking the appointment of your representative; (2) Your representative files the prescribed form with us withdrawing as your representative. (3) We have made a final determination or decision on your claim and the claims of any auxiliary beneficiary, the period in which you or your representative could appeal our determination or decision has ended, and you or your representative, or the auxiliary beneficiary, if any, did not file an appeal before the end of that period; (4) Your representative files a fee petition requesting our authorization to charge and collect a fee (see §§ 404.1720 and 404.1725); (5) We have closed out any application that was started by you or on your behalf but was not pursued within the time period we prescribe; (6) We disqualify or suspend your representative; (7) The entity goes out of business; or (8) The entity changes ownership or changes the services it provides, such that it no longer represents claimants before us. (d) You may reappoint a representative by properly filing a new prescribed form with us in accordance with §§ 404.1705 and 404.1707. 17. Add a new § 404.1713 to read as follows: § 404.1713 Professional representatives. (a) Professional representatives must conduct business with us electronically at the times and in the manner that we prescribe. (b) Professional representatives, and individuals working on behalf of professional representatives on claims before us, must make certain attestations we require to ensure that each individual knows, understands, and will comply with our rules and regulations. Each of these individuals will make these attestations one time during the access registration process. 18. Revise § 404.1715 to read as follows: § 404.1715 Notice or request to a representative. (a) We will send to you, your principal representative, and your other representatives, if any, all notices PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51971 relating to the appointment of any of your representatives and the revocation or withdrawal of an appointment of any of your representatives. Notices sent in accordance with § 404.1730(c)(2)(i) will be sent to any representative who has not filed a written request for a fee in accordance with § 404.1730(c)(1). (b) We will send only to your principal representative— (1) Notices and copies of any administrative action, determination, or decision in your claim; and (2) Requests for information or evidence in your claim. (c) If your principal representative is an entity, we will send all notices, copies of any administrative action, determination, or decision in your claim, and requests for information to the individual who signed the appointment of representative form on behalf of the entity, until or unless the entity informs us of a different contact within the entity for this purpose. (d) Your principal representative is responsible for informing other appointed representatives, if any, about any notices, administrative actions, determinations, decisions, or requests for information or evidence that we send to the principal representative. We will not send copies of notices, any administrative actions, determinations, decisions, or requests for information or evidence to any representative, except your principal representative. (e) Any notice or request we send to your principal representative will have the same force and effect as if we sent it directly to you. 19. Amend § 404.1720 by revising paragraphs (a), (b)(1), (b)(3), (b)(4), (c) introductory text, (c)(3), the first two sentences of paragraph (d)(1), and the first sentence of paragraph (d)(2)(i) to read as follows: § 404.1720 services. Fee for a representative’s (a) General. A representative may charge and receive a fee for providing you with services as a representative as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, or as provided in section 206(a)(2) of the Act. (b) Charging and receiving a fee under the fee petition process. (1) A representative must file a written fee petition with us before the representative may charge or receive a fee for providing you with services. * * * * * (3) A representative must not charge or receive any fee unless we have approved it, and a representative must not charge or receive any fee that is more than the amount we approve. E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 51972 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS (4) If the representative is an attorney, a non-attorney who is eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 404.1717, or an entity that meets the requirements in § 404.1730(f) and the claimant is entitled to past-due benefits, we will pay the authorized fee, or a part of the authorized fee, directly to the attorney, eligible non-attorney, or eligible entity out of the past-due benefits, subject to the limitations described in § 404.1730(b)(1). If the representative is not an attorney, eligible non-attorney, or eligible entity, we assume no responsibility for the payment of any fee that we have authorized. (c) Notice of determination on the fee petition. We will mail to both you and your representative at your last known addresses a written notice of what we decide about the fee petition. We will state in the notice— * * * * * (3) That we are not responsible for paying the fee, except when we may pay an attorney, a non-attorney who is eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 404.1717, or an entity that meets the requirements in § 404.1730(f), from past-due benefits; and * * * * * (d) Review of fee petition determination—(1) Request filed on time. We will review the decision we made about a fee petition if either you or your representative files a written request for the review through the electronic media we prescribe or at one of our offices within 30 days after the date of the notice of the fee determination. Either you or your representative, whoever requests the review, must mail a copy of the request to the other person. * * * (2) Request not filed on time. (i) If you or your representative requests a review of the decision we made about a fee, but does so more than 30 days after the date of the notice of the fee determination, whoever makes the request must state in writing why it was not filed within the 30-day period. * * * * * * * * 20. Amend § 404.1725 by revising the section heading, paragraphs (a) introductory text, (a)(2) through (a)(6), the heading for paragraph (b), and paragraph (b)(1)(vii) to read as follows: § 404.1725 petition. Request for approval of a fee (a) Filing a written fee petition. Unless your representative’s fee is approved pursuant to section 206(a)(2) of the Act, in order for your representative to VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 obtain approval of a fee for services your representative performed in dealings with us, your representative must file a written fee petition through the electronic media we prescribe or at one of our offices. This should be done after the proceedings in which your representative represented you are completed. The request must contain— * * * (2) A list of the services your representative provided and the amount of time your representative spent on each type of service; (3) The amount of the fee your representative wants to charge for the services; (4) The amount of fee your representative wants to request or charge for representing you in the same matter before any State or Federal court; (5) The amount of and a list of any expenses your representative incurred for which your representative has been paid or expects to be paid; (6) A description of the special qualifications which enabled your representative, if not an attorney, to give valuable help in connection with your claim; and * * * (b) Evaluating a request for approval of a fee petition. (1) * * * (vii) The amount of fee the representative requests for the representative’s services, including any amount authorized or requested before, but not including the amount of any expenses the representative incurred. * * * * * 21. Amend § 404.1728 by revising paragraph (a) to read as follows: § 404.1728 Proceedings before a State or Federal court. (a) Representation of a party in court proceedings in fee petitions. We will not consider any service the representative gave you in any proceeding before a State or Federal court to be services as a representative in dealings with us. However, if the representative also has given service to you in the same connection in any dealings with us, the representative must specify what, if any, portion of the fee the representative wants to charge is for services performed in dealings with us. If the representative charges any fee for those services, the representative must file the request and furnish all of the information required by § 404.1725. * * * * * 22. Revise § 404.1730 to read as follows: § 404.1730 Payment of fees. (a) Fees allowed by a Federal court in fee petitions. We will pay a PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 representative who is an attorney out of your past-due benefits the amount of the fee allowed by a Federal court in a proceeding under title II of the Act. This payment is subject to the limitations described in paragraph (b)(1) of this section. (b) Fees we may authorize for payment in fee petitions—(1) Attorneys, eligible non-attorneys, and eligible entities. Except as provided in paragraphs (c) and (e) of this section, if we make a determination or decision in your favor and you were represented by an attorney, a non-attorney who is eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 404.1717, or an entity that meets the requirements in paragraph (f) of this section, and as a result of the determination or decision you have past-due benefits, we will pay the representative out of the past-due benefits, the smallest of the amounts in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) or (ii) of this section, less the amount of the assessment described in paragraph (d) of this section. (i) Twenty-five percent of the total of the past-due benefits; or (ii) The amount of the fee that we set. (2) Persons not eligible for direct payment. If the representative is a nonattorney who is not eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project or an entity that is not eligible for direct payment of the fee, we assume no responsibility for the payment of any fee that we have authorized. We will not deduct the fee from your past-due benefits. (c) Time limit for filing request for approval of fee petition to obtain direct payment. (1) To receive direct payment of a fee from your past-due benefits, a representative who is an attorney, a non-attorney who is eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 404.1717, or an entity that meets the requirements in paragraph (f) of this section should file a request for approval of a fee or a written notice of the intent to file a request within 60 days of the date we mail the notice of the favorable determination or decision. The representative should file the request or written notice through the electronic media we prescribe or at one of our offices. Your representative must send you a copy of any request for approval of a fee, any written notice of the intent to file a request for approval of a fee, or any request for an extension of time filed with us. (2)(i) If no request is filed within 60 days of the date we mail the notice of the favorable determination or decision, we will mail a written notice to you and E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules your representative at your last known addresses. The notice will inform you and the representative that unless the representative files, within 20 days from the date of the notice, a written request for approval of a fee under § 404.1725, or a written request for an extension of time showing good cause (see § 404.911), we will pay all the past-due benefits to you. (ii) Your representative must send you a copy of any request made to us for an extension of time. If the request is not filed within 20 days of the date of the notice we send under paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section, or by the last day of any extension we approved, we will pay all past-due benefits to you. We must approve any fee your representative charges after that time, but the collection of any approved fee is a matter between you and your representative. (d) Assessment when we pay a fee directly to a representative. (1) Whenever we pay a fee directly to a representative from past-due benefits, we impose an assessment on the representative. (2) The amount of the assessment is equal to the lesser of: (i) The product we obtain by multiplying the amount of the fee we are paying to the representative by the percentage rate the Commissioner of Social Security determines is necessary to achieve full recovery of the costs of determining and paying fees directly to representatives, but not in excess of 6.3 percent; and (ii) The maximum assessment amount. The maximum assessment amount was initially set at $75, but by law is adjusted annually to reflect the increase in the cost-of-living. (See §§ 404.270 through 404.278 for an explanation of how the cost-of-living adjustment is computed.) If the adjusted amount is not a multiple of $1, we round down the amount to the next lower $1, but the amount will not be less than $75. We will announce in the Federal Register any increase in the maximum assessment amount and explain how the increase was determined. (3) We collect the assessment by subtracting it from the amount of the fee to be paid to the representative. The representative who is subject to an assessment may not, directly or indirectly, request or otherwise obtain reimbursement of the assessment from you. (e) Direct payment registration. (1) To receive direct payment, the representative must first complete direct payment registration with us in the form and manner that we prescribe. VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 (2) We will only make direct payment of fees via electronic funds transfer. (f) Direct payment to entities. We will only make direct payment to an entity that provides the following attestations in its request for direct payment of fees: (1) The entity must attest that it is in possession of a signed statement from each attorney or non-attorney who has performed any representational services for the claim in question that includes the following: (i) The attorney or non-attorney has performed all representational services on behalf of the entity, (ii) Any fees paid pursuant to the services the attorney or non-attorney have provided should be paid directly to the entity, and (iii) The attorney or non-attorney representative receives compensation for the services provided directly from the entity. (2) The entity must attest that all individuals who have provided representational services on the claim in question are individuals who qualify for direct payment under the Act or the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 404.1717. 23. Add a new § 404.1732 to read as follows: § 404.1732 Waiver of fee or direct payment, or both. (a) Your representative may choose to waive the right to charge and receive a fee. An otherwise eligible representative who wishes to charge and receive a fee may waive the right to direct payment. A representative who waives the right to direct payment does not automatically waive the right to charge and receive a fee. (b) Your representative must file a form we prescribe to waive direct payment of the fee. (c) A waiver of the right to charge and receive a fee or of direct payment, or both, will apply to fees approved by a Federal court, unless it is otherwise specifically noted on the form completed in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section. (d) If you have appointed an entity as your representative, any registered employee of the entity may sign the form completed in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section to waive the fee or direct payment, or both, on behalf of the entity. 24. Amend § 404.1740 by revising the first sentence of paragraph (a)(1), paragraph (b) introductory text, paragraph (b)(3) introductory text, the third sentence of paragraph (b)(3)(i), and the second sentence of paragraph (b)(3)(ii), adding paragraphs (b)(3)(iii) and (b)(4), revising paragraphs (c) PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51973 introductory text, (c)(4), (c)(6), and (c)(7)(iii), and adding paragraphs (c)(8) through (c)(13) to read as follows: § 404.1740 Rules of conduct and standards of responsibility for representatives. (a) * * * (1) All persons acting on behalf of a party seeking a statutory right or benefit must, in their dealings with us, faithfully execute their duties as agents and fiduciaries of a party. * * * (b) Affirmative duties. A representative must, in conformity with the regulations setting forth our existing duties and responsibilities and those of claimants (see § 404.1512 in disability and blindness claims): * * * * * (3) Conduct the representative’s dealings in a manner that furthers the efficient, fair, and orderly conduct of the administrative decision-making process, including duties to: (i) * * *This includes knowing the significant issue(s) in a claim and having a working knowledge of the applicable provisions of the Social Security Act, as amended, the regulations and the Rulings; (ii) * * * This includes providing prompt and responsive answers to requests from the Agency for information pertinent to processing of the claim; and (iii) Maintain a paper copy of the form described in § 404.1707(a) that reflects the representative’s and the claimant’s signatures and respective signature dates appointing the representative, and maintain copies of the signed attestations described in § 404.1730(f), and provide paper copies to us on request. (4) If the representative is a professional representative, conduct business with us electronically at the times and in the manner that we prescribe when submitting any written request for reconsideration or a hearing before an administrative law judge on an initial disability claim that was based on medical factors. (c) Prohibited actions. A representative must not: * * * * * (4) Through the representative’s own actions or omissions, unreasonably delay or cause to be delayed, without good cause (see § 404.911(b)), the processing of a claim at any stage of the administrative decision-making process; * * * * * (6) Attempt to influence, directly or indirectly, the outcome of a decision, determination or other administrative action by offering or granting a loan, E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 51974 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules gift, entertainment or anything of value to a presiding official, Agency employee or witness who is or may reasonably be expected to be involved in the administrative decisionmaking process, except as reimbursement for legitimately incurred expenses or lawful compensation for the services of an expert witness retained on a noncontingency basis to provide evidence; (7) * * * (iii) Threatening or intimidating language, gestures or actions directed at a presiding official, witness or Agency employee which results in a disruption of the orderly presentation and reception of evidence; (8) Violate any section of the Social Security Act for which a criminal or civil monetary penalty is prescribed; (9) Refuse to comply with any of our rules or regulations; (10) Suggest, assist, or direct another person to violate our rules or regulations; (11) Advise any claimant or beneficiary not to comply with any of our rules and regulations; (12) Assist another person whom we have suspended or disqualified; or (13) Fail to comply with our decision regarding sanctions. 25. Amend § 404.1750 by revising paragraphs (a) and (d) to read as follows: § 404.1750 Notice of charges against a representative. (a) The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will prepare a notice containing a statement of charges that constitutes the basis for the proceeding against the representative. * * * * * (d) The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, may extend the 30-day period for good cause in accordance with § 404.911. * * * * * 26. Revise § 404.1755 to read as follows: sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS § 404.1755 Withdrawing charges against a representative. The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, may withdraw charges against a representative. We will do this if the representative files an answer, or we obtain evidence, that satisfies us that we should not suspend or disqualify the representative from acting as a representative in dealings with us. When we consider withdrawing charges brought under § 404.1745(d) or (e) based on the representative’s assertion that, before or after our filing of charges, the VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 representative has been reinstated to practice by the court, bar, or Federal program or Federal agency that suspended, disbarred, or disqualified the representative, the General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will determine whether such reinstatement occurred, whether it remains in effect, and whether he or she is reasonably satisfied that the representative will in the future act in accordance with the provisions of section 206(a) of the Act and our rules and regulations. If the representative proves that reinstatement occurred and remains in effect and the General Counsel, or his or her designee, is so satisfied, the General Counsel, or his or her designee, will withdraw those charges. The action of the General Counsel, or his or her designee, regarding withdrawal of charges is solely that of the General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, and is not reviewable, or subject to consideration in decisions made under §§ 404.1770 and 404.1790. If we withdraw the charges, we will notify the representative by mail at the representative’s last known address. 27. Amend § 404.1765 by revising paragraphs (a), (b)(1), and (e), the first sentence of paragraph (g)(2), and paragraphs (i), (l), and (m) to read as follows: § 404.1765 Hearing on charges. (a) Holding the hearing. If the General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, does not take action to withdraw the charges within 15 days after the date on which the representative filed an answer, we will hold a hearing and make a decision on the charges. (b) Hearing officer. (1) The Deputy Commissioner for Disability Adjudication and Review (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will assign an administrative law judge, designated to act as a hearing officer, to hold a hearing on the charges. * * * * * (e) Parties. The representative against whom charges have been made is a party to the hearing. The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will also be a party to the hearing. * * * * * (g) Conduct of the hearing. * * * (2) If the representative did not file an answer to the charges, the representative PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 has no right to present evidence at the hearing. * * * * * * * * (i) Witnesses. Witnesses who testify at the hearing must do so under oath or affirmation. Either the representative or a person representing the representative may question the witnesses. The other party and that party’s representative must also be allowed to question the witnesses. The hearing officer may also ask questions as considered necessary, and will rule upon any objection made by either party about whether any question is proper. * * * * * (l) Representation. The representative, as the person charged, may appear in person and may be represented by an attorney or other representative. The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will be represented by one or more attorneys from the Office of the General Counsel. (m) Failure to Appear. If the representative or the other party to the hearing fails to appear after being notified of the time and place, the hearing officer may hold the hearing anyway so that the party present may offer evidence to sustain or rebut the charges. The hearing officer will give the other party who failed to appear an opportunity to show good cause for failure to appear. If the party fails to show good cause, the party is considered to have waived the right to be present at the hearing. If the party shows good cause, the hearing officer may hold a supplemental hearing. * * * * * 28. Amend § 404.1770 by revising paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3) introductory text, (a)(3)(ii), (b)(2), and (b)(3) to read as follows: § 404.1770 Decision by hearing officer. (a) General. (1) After the close of the hearing, the hearing officer will issue a decision or certify the case to the Appeals Council. The decision must be in writing, will contain findings of fact and conclusions of law, and be based upon the evidence of record. (2) In deciding whether a person has been, by reason of misconduct, disbarred or suspended by a court or bar, or disqualified from participating in or appearing before any Federal program or agency, the hearing officer will consider the reasons for the disbarment, suspension, or disqualification action. If the action was taken for solely administrative reasons (e.g., failure to pay dues or to complete continuing legal education requirements), that will not disqualify the person from acting as E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules 51975 a representative before us. However, this exception to disqualification does not apply if the administrative action was taken in lieu of disciplinary proceedings (e.g., acceptance of a voluntary resignation pending disciplinary action). Although the hearing officer will consider whether the disbarment, suspension, or disqualification action is based on misconduct when deciding whether a person should be disqualified from acting as a representative before us, the hearing officer will not reexamine or revise the factual or legal conclusions that led to the disbarment, suspension, or disqualification. (3) If the hearing officer finds that the charges against the representative have been sustained, he or she will either— * * * * * (ii) Disqualify the representative from acting as a representative in dealings with us until the representative may be reinstated under § 404.1799. Disqualification is the sole sanction available if the charges have been sustained because the representative has been disbarred or suspended from any court or bar to which the representative was previously admitted to practice or disqualified from participating in or appearing before any Federal program or agency, or because the representative has collected or received, and retains, a fee for representational services in excess of the amount authorized. * * * * * (b) Effect of hearing officer’s decision. * * * (2) If the final decision is that a person is disqualified from being a representative in dealings with us, the representative will not be permitted to represent anyone in dealings with us until authorized to do so under the provisions of § 404.1799. (3) If the final decision is that a person is suspended for a specified period of time from being a representative in dealings with us, the representative will not be permitted to represent anyone in dealings with us during the period of suspension unless authorized to do so under the provisions of § 404.1799. 29. Amend § 404.1780 by revising paragraph (b) to read as follows: § 404.1799 Reinstatement after suspension or disqualification—period of suspension not expired. § 404.1780 Appeals Council’s review of hearing officer’s decision. PART 408—SPECIAL BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN WORLD WAR II VETERANS 36. Amend § 416.1401 by adding a definition in alphabetical order to read as follows: Subpart K—[Amended] § 416.1401 * * * * (b) The suspended or disqualified person must submit any evidence the person wishes to have considered along with the request to be allowed to serve as a representative again. (c) The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, upon notification of receipt of the request, will have 30 days in which to present a written report of any experiences with the suspended or disqualified person subsequent to that person’s suspension or disqualification. The Appeals Council will make available to the suspended or disqualified person a copy of the report. (d) * * * (2) If a person was disqualified because the person had been disbarred or suspended from a court or bar, the Appeals Council will grant a request for reinstatement as a representative only if the criterion in paragraph (d)(1) of this section is met and the disqualified person shows that the person has been admitted (or readmitted) to and is in good standing with the court or bar from which the person had been disbarred or suspended. (3) If a person was disqualified because the person had been disqualified from participating in or appearing before a Federal program or Federal agency, the Appeals Council will grant the request for reinstatement only if the criterion in paragraph (d)(1) of this section is met and the disqualified person shows that the person is now qualified to participate in or appear before that Federal program or Federal agency. * * * * * (e) The Appeals Council will mail a notice of its decision on the request for reinstatement to the suspended or disqualified person. It will also mail a copy to the General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee. * * * * * * sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS * * * * (b) If a party files a brief or other written statement with the Appeals Council, the party must send a copy to the opposing party and certify that the copy has been sent. 30. Amend § 404.1799 by revising paragraphs (b), (c), (d)(2), (d)(3), and (e), to read as follows: * VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 32. Amend § 408.1101 by revising paragraphs (a) and (b)(3) to read as follows: § 408.1101 Can you appoint someone to represent you? (a) General rules. You may appoint one or more individuals or entities to represent you in any of your dealings with us. For purposes of this part, the rules on representation of parties in §§ 416.1500–416.1505, 416.1507– 416.1515 and 416.1540–416.1599 of this chapter apply except as noted in paragraph (b) of this section. (b) Exceptions. * * * (3) In § 416.1507(a)(1)(iii), the words ‘‘one of our offices’’ are deemed to read ‘‘any of the offices listed in § 408.1009(b).’’ * * * * * PART 416—SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME FOR THE AGED, BLIND, AND DISABLED Subpart C—[Amended] 33. The authority citation for subpart C of part 416 continues to read as follows: Authority: Secs. 702(a)(5), 1611, and 1631(a), (d), and (e) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 902(a)(5), 1382, and 1383(a), (d), and (e)). 34. Amend § 416.315 by adding paragraph (d) to read as follows: § 416.315 Who may sign an application. * * * * * (d) Your principal representative (see §§ 416.1505 and 416.1507) may sign and file your application with us. If a principal representative signs an application on your behalf, you are responsible for the accuracy of the information you provide. Subpart N—[Amended] 35. The authority citation for subpart N of part 416 continues to read as follows: Authority: Secs. 702(a)(5), 1631, and 1633 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 902(a)(5), 1383, and 1383b); sec. 202, Pub. L. 108–203, 118 Stat. 509 (42 U.S.C. 902 note). Definitions. * 31. The authority citation for subpart K of part 408 continues to read as follows: Authority: Secs. 702(a)(5) and 810(a) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 902(a)(5) and 1010(a)). PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 * * * * Initial disability claim means: (1) An application for benefits that is based on whether you are disabled under title II of the Act, or (2) An application for supplemental security income payments that is based E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 51976 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules on whether you are disabled or blind under title XVI of the Act. (3) For purposes of this subpart, the term ‘‘initial disability claim’’ does not include a continuing disability review or an age-18 redetermination. * * * * * 37. Amend § 416.1403 by revising paragraph (a)(7) to read as follows: § 416.1403 Administrative actions that are not initial determinations. (a) * * * (7) Refusing to recognize, disqualifying, or suspending a person, as defined in § 416.1503, from acting as your representative in a proceeding before us (see §§ 416.1505 and 416.1545); * * * * * 38. Amend § 416.1409 by revising the section heading and paragraph (a), and by removing the heading for paragraph (b), to read as follows: § 416.1409 How to request reconsideration in claims other than those that involve a denial of an initial disability claim based on medical factors. (a) We will reconsider an initial determination, other than one that involves a denial of your initial disability claim based on medical factors (see § 416.1410), if you or any other party to the reconsideration files a written request within 60 days after the date you receive notice of the initial determination (or within the extended time period if we extend the time as provided in paragraph (b) of this section at one of our offices, the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines, or an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, or at least five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 1995. * * * * * 39. Add a new § 416.1410 to read as follows: sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS § 416.1410 How to request reconsideration in an initial disability claim that is denied based on medical factors. (a) If you file an initial disability claim, we will reconsider an initial determination that denies your claim based on medical factors if you or any other party to the reconsideration files a written request within 60 days after the date you receive notice of the initial determination and you make your request in accordance with paragraphs (b) or (c) (or within the extended time period if we extend the time as provided in paragraph (d)) of this section. (b) If you have not appointed a representative, or if your representative is not a professional representative, as VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 defined in § 416.1503, you may file your written request for reconsideration either through the electronic media we prescribe, at one of our offices, at the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines, or at an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, or at least five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 1995. (c) If your representative is a professional representative, as defined in § 416.1503, your professional representative must file your written request for reconsideration with us through the electronic media that we prescribe, unless we waive this requirement. (d) If you want a reconsideration of the initial determination that denies your initial disability claim based on medical factors, but do not request one in time, you may ask us for more time to request a reconsideration. Your request for an extension of time must be in writing and must give the reasons why the request for reconsideration was not filed within the stated time period. If you show us that you had good cause for missing the deadline, we will extend the time period. To determine whether good cause exists, we use the standards explained in § 416.1411. You must file the request for an extension of time according to the procedures in paragraphs (b) or (c) of this section. 40. Amend § 416.1433 by revising the section heading and paragraphs (a) introductory text and (b) to read as follows: § 416.1433 How to request a hearing before an administrative law judge in claims other than those that involve a denial of an initial disability claim based on medical factors. (a) Written request. You may request a hearing on your claim, other than one that involves a denial of your initial disability claim based on medical factors (see § 416.1434), by filing a written request. You should include in your request— * * * * * (b) When and where to file. The request must be filed within 60 days after the date you receive notice of the previous determination or decision (or within the extended time period if we extend the time as provided in paragraph (c) of this section at one of our offices, at the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines, or at an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, or at least five years PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 of railroad service accruing after December 31, 1995. * * * * * 41. Add a new § 416.1434 to read as follows: § 416.1434 How to request a hearing before an administrative law judge in an initial disability claim that is denied based on medical factors. (a) If we deny your reconsidered initial disability claim based on medical factors, you may request a hearing by filing a written request. You should include in your request— (1) The name and Social Security number of the wage earner; (2) The reasons you disagree with the previous determination or decision; (3) A statement of additional evidence to be submitted and the date you will submit it; and (4) The name and address of any designated representative. (b) Your request for a hearing must be filed within 60 days after the date you receive notice of the previous determination or decision (or within the extended time period if we extend the time as provided in paragraph (e) of this section). (c) If you have not appointed a representative, or if your representative is not a professional representative, as defined in § 416.1503, you may file your written request for a hearing either through the electronic media we prescribe, at one of our offices, at the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines, or at an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, or at least five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 1995. (d) If your representative is a professional representative, as defined in § 416.1503, your professional representative must file your written request for a hearing with us through the electronic media that we prescribe, unless we waive this requirement. (e) If you have a right to a hearing with respect to a determination or decision that denies your initial disability claim based on medical factors, but you do not request one in time, you may ask for more time to make your request. The request for an extension of time must be in writing and it must give the reasons why the request for a hearing was not filed within the stated time period. If you show that you had good cause for missing the deadline, we will extend the time period. To determine whether good cause exists, we use the standards explained in § 416.1411. You must file the request for an extension of time E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules Fee petition means a written statement signed by the claimant’s representative requesting the fee the Subpart O—[Amended] representative wants to charge and collect for services the representative 42. The authority citation for subpart provided in pursuing the claimant’s O of part 416 continues to read as benefit rights in proceedings before us. follows: Past-due benefits means the total Authority: Secs. 702(a)(5), 1127 and amount of payments under title XVI of 1631(d) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. the Act, the Supplemental Security 902(a)(5), 1320a–6 and 1383(d)); sec. 303, Income (SSI) program, including any Pub. L. 108–203, 118 Stat. 493. Federally administered State payments, 43. Amend § 416.1500 by revising the that has accumulated to you and your introductory text and paragraph (a) to spouse because of a favorable read as follows: administrative or judicial determination or decision, up to but not including the § 416.1500 Introduction. month the determination or decision is You may appoint one or more made. For purposes of calculating fees individuals or entities to represent you for representation, we first determine in any of your dealings with us. This the SSI past-due benefits before any subpart explains, among other things— applicable reduction for reimbursement (a) Who may be your representative to a State (or political subdivision) for and what your representative’s interim assistance reimbursement, and qualifications must be; before any applicable reduction under * * * * * section 1127 of the Act (for receipt of 44. Revise § 416.1503 to read as benefits for the same period under title follows: II). We then reduce that figure by the amount of any reduction of title II or § 416.1503 Definitions. title XVI benefits that was required by As used in this subpart— section 1127. We do this whether the Access registration means supplying actual offset, as provided under section us with personal information that we 1127, reduced the title II or title XVI use to identify you, your representative, benefits. Past-due benefits do not or an individual working on behalf of include: your representative, to authenticate and (1) Continued benefits paid pursuant authorize you, your representative, or an to § 416.996; individual working on behalf of your (2) Continued benefits paid pursuant representative to do business with us. to § 416.1336(b); or Direct payment registration means (3) Interim benefits paid pursuant to supplying to us personal, financial section 1631(a)(8) of the Act. institution, and business affiliation Person means an individual or an information that we use to authorize a entity. representative under certain Principal representative means an circumstances to receive direct payment attorney who meets all of the of representative fees via electronic requirements of § 416.1505(a), an funds transfer. individual other than an attorney who Disqualify refers to an action that meets all of the requirements of prohibits a person from participating in § 416.1505(b), or an entity that meets all or appearing before a Federal agency or of the requirements under § 416.1505(b), Federal program, regardless of how long who has been appointed to represent the prohibition lasts or the specific you in dealings with us and who is terminology used. responsible for disseminating Electronic media means the electronic information and requests from us to you media that we prescribe for providing us and your other representatives, if any. Professional representative means any information, registering with us, and attorney, any individual other than an filing with us certain applications, attorney, or any entity that holds itself forms, and other documents. Entity means any business, firm, or out to the public as providing other association, including but not representational services (see limited to partnerships, corporations, § 416.1535) before us, regardless of for-profit organizations, and not-forwhether the representative charges or profit organizations. collects a fee for providing the Federal agency refers to any authority representational services. Representative means an attorney of the Executive branch of the who meets all of the requirements of Government of the United States. Federal program refers to any program § 416.1505(a), an individual other than an attorney who meets all of the established by an Act of Congress or requirements of § 416.1505(b), or an administered in whole or in part by a entity that meets all of the requirements Federal agency. sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS according to the procedures in paragraphs (b) or (c) of this section. VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51977 of § 416.1505(b), whom you appoint to represent you in dealings with us. For purposes of §§ 416.1540 through 416.1599, the term representative also includes an attorney or a non-attorney whom you have not appointed as your representative under the previous sentence but who works for or on behalf of an appointed representative and helps represent you in your claim before us. We, our(s), or us refers to the Social Security Administration. You or your(s) refers to any individual or the eligible spouse of any individual claiming or receiving supplemental security income benefits. 45. Amend § 416.1505 by removing the heading for paragraphs (a) and (b), revising paragraph (b) introductory text, and adding paragraphs (c) through (g) to read as follows: § 416.1505 Who may be your representative. * * * * * (b) You may appoint any person who is not an attorney to be your representative in dealings with us if the person— * * * * * (c) We may refuse to recognize your appointed representative if the representative does not meet our requirements. We will notify you and your appointed representative if we do not recognize your appointed representative. (d) You may appoint more than one representative to represent you at the same time. (e) You must have a principal representative. When you appoint only one representative, that representative is your principal representative. When you appoint more than one representative you must select one of your appointed representatives as your principal representative. Your principal representative is responsible for disseminating information and requests from us to you and your other representatives, if any, and for providing us information from you and about your claim. You may have only one principal representative at a time. (f) If at any point you are represented by more than one representative and you have not appointed or do not have a principal representative, we will name one of your appointed representatives as your principal representative. You may appoint a different principal representative than the one we name by filing the appropriate form. (g) Each of your representatives, as well as individuals working on their behalf, must complete access E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 51978 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules registration with us in the manner we prescribe. 46. Revise § 416.1507 to read as follows: sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS § 416.1507 How you appoint and revoke the appointment of a representative. (a) You must use the version of the form we prescribe, electronic or paper, to appoint or revoke the appointment of a representative. (1) If your representative is not a professional representative, and your representative does not want to deal with us through the electronic media we prescribe, we will recognize your appointment of a representative if— (i) Both you and your representative sign the paper form we prescribe; (ii) You choose a principal representative on the form we prescribe at the time of the appointment; and (iii) You or your representative files the signed form with us at one of our offices if you have initially filed a claim or have requested reconsideration; with the hearing office if you have requested a hearing; or with the Appeals Council if you have requested a review of the administrative law judge’s decision. (2) If your representative is a professional representative, or if your representative is not a professional representative but wants to do business with us through the electronic media we prescribe, we will recognize your appointment of a representative if— (i) Your representative electronically signs the form we prescribe, prints the electronically signed form, and you sign the printed copy of the form; (ii) You choose a principal representative on the form we prescribe at the time of the appointment; and (iii) Your representative files the electronic form in the manner we prescribe. (3) If we do not make the electronic form available or we prescribe that the electronic form is not required, then we will recognize your appointment of a professional representative according to the procedures in paragraph (a)(1) of this section. (b) Each time you change your principal representative, you must file a new version of the form we prescribe. (c) If at any point you are represented by more than one representative and you have not appointed or do not have a principal representative, we will name one of your appointed representatives as your principal representative. You may appoint a different principal representative than the one we name by filing the appropriate form. (d) You must file the form we prescribe with us to revoke the appointment of a representative. The VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 date of the revocation is the date on which you file the form with us. We will notify you and your representative that you revoked your representative’s appointment. 47. Amend § 416.1510 by revising paragraphs (a) introductory text and (b) and by adding paragraph (c) to read as follows: § 416.1510 Authority of a representative. (a) Your representative may, on your behalf— * * * * * (b) Your principal representative may also sign and file an application on your behalf for rights or benefits under title XVI of the Act, as described in § 416.315(d). (c) If you appoint an entity as your representative, any document related to the claim that is signed by a registered employee of the entity is binding on that entity, even if the employee’s association with the entity ends. 48. Add a new § 416.1512 to read as follows: § 416.1512 When the appointment of your representative begins and ends. (a) The appointment of your representative begins on the date that you and your representative sign the form we prescribe appointing your representative as described in § 416.1507. However, we will not recognize your appointment of a representative or deal with your representative until you or your representative file(s) the signed form with us. (b) If your appointed representative is an individual, the individual’s authority continues until the earliest of the following actions occur— (1) You file the prescribed form with us revoking the appointment of your representative; (2) Your representative files the prescribed form with us withdrawing as your representative; (3) We have made a final determination or decision on your claim of the period in which you or your representative could appeal our determination or decision has ended, and you or your representative did not file an appeal before the end of that period; (4) Your representative files a fee petition requesting our authorization to charge and collect a fee (see §§ 416.1520 and 416.1525); (5) We have closed out any application that was started by you or on your behalf but was not pursued within the time period we prescribe; (6) We disqualify or suspend your representative; or PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 (7) Your representative dies. (c) If your appointed representative is an entity, the entity’s authority continues until the earliest of the following actions occur— (1) You file the prescribed form with us revoking the appointment of your representative; (2) Your representative files the prescribed form with us withdrawing as your representative. (3) We have made a final determination or decision on your claim of the period in which you or your representative could appeal our determination or decision has ended, and you or your representative did not file an appeal before the end of that period; (4) Your representative files a fee petition requesting our authorization to charge and collect a fee (see §§ 416.1520 and 416.1525); (5) We have closed out any application that was started by you or on your behalf but was not pursued within the time period we prescribe; (6) We disqualify or suspend your representative; (7) The entity goes out of business; or (8) The entity changes ownership or changes the services it provides, such that it no longer represents claimants before us. (d) You may reappoint a representative by properly filing a new prescribed form with us in accordance with §§ 416.1505 and 416.1507. 49. Add a new § 416.1513 to read as follows: § 416.1513 Professional representatives. (a) Professional representatives must conduct business with us electronically at the times and in the manner that we prescribe. (b) Professional representatives, and individuals working on behalf of professional representatives on claims before us, must make certain attestations we require to ensure that each individual knows, understands, and will comply with our rules and regulations. Each of these individuals will make these attestations one time during the access registration process. 50. Revise § 416.1515 to read as follows: § 416.1515 Notice or request to a representative. (a) We will send to you, your principal representative, and your other representatives, if any, all notices relating to the appointment of any of your representatives and the revocation or withdrawal of an appointment of any of your representatives. Notices sent in accordance with § 416.1530(c)(2)(i) will E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules be sent to any representative who has not filed a written request for a fee in accordance with § 416.1530(c)(1). (b) We will send only to your principal representative— (1) Notices and copies of any administrative action, determination, or decision in your claim; and (2) Requests for information or evidence in your claim. (c) If your principal representative is an entity, we will send all notices, copies of any administrative action, determination, or decision in your claim, and requests for information to the individual who signed the appointment of representative form on behalf of the entity, until or unless the entity informs us of a different contact within the entity for this purpose. (d) Your principal representative is responsible for informing other appointed representatives, if any, about any notices, administrative actions, determinations, decisions, or requests for information or evidence that we send to the principal representative. We will not send copies of notices, any administrative actions, determinations, decisions, or requests for information or evidence to any representative, except your principal representative. (e) Any notice or request we send to your principal representative will have the same force and effect as if we sent it directly to you. 51. Amend § 416.1520 by revising paragraphs (a), (b)(1), (b)(3), (b)(4), (c) introductory text, (c)(3) introductory text, the first two sentences of paragraph (d)(1), and the first sentence of paragraph (d)(2)(i) to read as follows: sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS § 416.1520 services. Fee for a representative’s (a) General. A representative may charge and receive a fee for providing you with services as a representative as provided in paragraph (b) of this section or as provided in sections 206(a)(2) and 1631(d)(2) of the Act. (b) Charging and receiving a fee under the fee petition process. (1) The representative must file a written fee petition with us before the representative may charge or receive a fee for providing you with services. * * * * * (3) A representative must not charge or receive any fee unless we have approved it, and a representative must not charge or receive any fee that is more than the amount we approve. (4) If the representative is an attorney, a non-attorney who is eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 416.1517, or an entity that meets the requirements in § 416.1530(f) and the VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 claimant is entitled to past-due benefits, we will pay the authorized fee, or a part of the authorized fee, directly to the attorney, eligible non-attorney, or eligible entity out of the past-due benefits, subject to the limitations described in § 416.1530(b)(1). If the representative is not an attorney, eligible non-attorney, or eligible entity, we assume no responsibility for the payment of any fee that we have authorized. (c) Notice of determination on the fee petition. We will mail to both you and your representative at your last known addresses a written notice of what we decide about the fee petition. We will state in the notice— * * * * * (3) That we are not responsible for paying the fee, except when we may pay an attorney, a non-attorney who is eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 416.1517, or an entity that meets the requirements in § 416.1530(f), from past-due benefits; and— * * * * * (d) Review of fee petition determination-(1) Request filed on time. We will review the decision we made about a fee petition if either you or your representative files a written request for the review through the electronic media we prescribe or at one of our offices within 30 days after the date of the notice of the fee determination. Either you or your representative, whoever requests the review, must mail a copy of the request to the other person. * * * (2) Request not filed on time. (i) If you or your representative requests a review of the decision we made about a fee, but does so more than 30 days after the date of the notice of the fee determination, whoever makes the request must state in writing why it was not filed within the 30-day period. * * * * * * * * 52. Amend § 416.1525 by revising the section heading, paragraphs (a) introductory text, (a)(2) through (a)(6), the heading for paragraph (b), and paragraph (b)(1)(vii) to read as follows: § 416.1525 petition. Request for approval of a fee (a) Filing a written fee petition. Unless your representative’s fee is approved pursuant to sections 206(a)(2) and 1631(d)(2) of the Act, in order for your representative to obtain approval of a fee for services your representative performed in dealings with us, your representative must file a written fee petition through the electronic media we prescribe or at one of our offices. This should be done after the PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51979 proceedings in which your representative represented you are completed. The request must contain— * * * * * (2) A list of the services your representative provided and the amount of time your representative spent on each type of service; (3) The amount of the fee your representative wants to charge for the services; (4) The amount of fee your representative wants to request or charge for representing you in the same matter before any State or Federal court; (5) The amount of and a list of any expenses your representative incurred for which your representative has been paid or expects to be paid; (6) A description of the special qualifications which enabled your representative, if not an attorney, to give valuable help in connection with your claim; and * * * * * (b) Evaluating a request for approval of a fee petition. (1) * * * (vii) The amount of fee the representative requests for the representative’s services, including any amount authorized or requested before, but not including the amount of any expenses the representative incurred. * * * * * 53. Amend § 416.1528 by revising paragraph (a) to read as follows: § 416.1528 Proceedings before a State or Federal court. (a) Representation of a party in court proceedings in fee petitions. We will not consider any service the representative gave you in any proceeding before a State or Federal court to be services as a representative in dealings with us. However, if the representative also has given service to you in the same connection in any dealings with us, the representative must specify what, if any, portion of the fee the representative wants to charge is for services performed in dealings with us. If the representative charges any fee for those services, the representative must file the request and furnish all of the information required by § 416.1525. * * * * * 54. Revise § 416.1530 to read as follows: § 416.1530 Payment of fees. (a) Fees allowed by a Federal court in fee petitions. We will pay a representative who is an attorney out of your past-due benefits, the amount of the fee allowed by a Federal court in a proceeding under title XVI of the Act. E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS 51980 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules This payment is subject to the limitations described in paragraph (b)(1) of this section. (b) Fees we may authorize for payment in fee petitions—(1) Attorneys, eligible non-attorneys, and eligible entities. Except as provided in paragraphs (c) and (f) of this section, if we make a determination or decision in your favor and you were represented by an attorney, a non-attorney who is eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 416.1517, or an entity that meets the requirements in paragraph (g) of this section, and as a result of the determination or decision you have past-due benefits, we will pay the representative out of the past-due benefits, the smallest of the amounts in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) through (iii) of this section, less the amount of the assessment described in paragraph (d) of this section. (i) Twenty-five percent of the total of the past-due benefits, as determined before any payment to a State (or political subdivision) to reimburse the State (or political subdivision) for interim assistance furnished you, as described in § 416.525, and reduced by the amount of any reduction in benefits under this title or title II pursuant to section 1127 of the Act; (ii) The amount of past-due benefits remaining after we pay to a State (or political subdivision) an amount sufficient to reimburse the State (or political subdivision) for interim assistance furnished you, as described in § 416.525, and after any applicable reductions under section 1127 of the Act; or (iii) The amount of the fee that we set. (2) Persons not eligible for direct payment. If the representative is a nonattorney who is not eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project or an entity that is not eligible for direct payment of the fee, we assume no responsibility for the payment of any fee that we have authorized. We will not deduct the fee your past-due benefits. (c) Time limit for filing request for approval of fee petition to obtain direct payment. (1) To receive direct payment of a fee from your past-due benefits, a representative who is an attorney, a non-attorney who is eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 416.1517, or an entity that meets the requirements in paragraph (g) of this section should file a request for approval of a fee or a written notice of the intent to file a request within 60 days of the date we mail the notice of the favorable determination or decision. VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 The representative should file the request or written notice through the electronic media we prescribe or at one of our offices. Your representative must send you a copy of any request for approval of a fee, any written notice of the intent to file a request for approval of a fee, or any request for an extension of time filed with us. (2)(i) If no request is filed within 60 days of the date we mail the notice of the favorable determination or decision, we will mail a written notice to you and your representative at your last known addresses. The notice will inform you and the representative that unless the representative files, within 20 days from the date of the notice, a written request for approval of a fee under § 416.1525, or a written request for an extension of time showing good cause (see § 416.1411), we will pay all the past-due benefits to you. (ii) Your representative must send you a copy of any request made to us for an extension of time. If the request is not filed within 20 days of the date of the notice we send under paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section, or by the last day of any extension we approved, we will pay all past-due benefits to you. We must approve any fee your representative charges after that time, but the collection of any approved fee is a matter between you and your representative. (d) Assessment when we pay a fee directly to a representative. (1) Whenever we pay a fee directly to a representative from past-due benefits, we impose an assessment on the representative. (2) The amount of the assessment is equal to the lesser of: (i) The product we obtain by multiplying the amount of the fee we are paying to the representative by the percentage rate the Commissioner of Social Security determines is necessary to achieve full recovery of the costs of determining and paying fees directly to representatives, but not in excess of 6.3 percent; and (ii) The maximum assessment amount. The maximum assessment amount was initially set at $75, but by law is adjusted annually to reflect the increase in the cost-of-living. (See §§ 404.270 through 404.277 for an explanation of how the cost-of-living adjustment is computed.) If the adjusted amount is not a multiple of $1, we round down the amount to the next lower $1, but the amount will not be less than $75. We will announce in the Federal Register any increase in the maximum assessment amount and explain how that increase was determined. PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 (3) We collect the assessment by subtracting it from the amount of the fee to be paid to the representative. The representative who is subject to an assessment may not, directly or indirectly, request or otherwise obtain reimbursement of the assessment from you. (e) Effective dates for extension of direct payment of fee to attorneys. The provisions of this subpart authorizing the direct payment of fees to attorneys and the withholding of title XVI benefits for that purpose, apply in claims for benefits with respect to which the agreement for representation is entered into before March 1, 2010. (f) Direct payment registration. (1) To receive direct payment, the representative must first complete direct payment registration with us in the form and manner that we prescribe. (2) We will only make direct payment of fees via electronic funds transfer. (g) Direct payment to entities. We will only make direct payment to an entity that provides the following attestations in its request for direct payment of fees: (1) The entity must attest that it is in possession of a signed statement from each attorney or non-attorney who has performed any representational services for the claim in question that includes the following: (i) The attorney or non-attorney has performed all representational services on behalf of the entity, (ii) Any fees paid pursuant to the services the attorney or non-attorney have provided should be paid directly to the entity, and (iii) The attorney or non-attorney representative receives compensation for the services provided directly from the entity. (2) The entity must attest that all individuals who have provided representational services on the claim in question are individuals who qualify for direct payment under the Act or the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in § 416.1517. 55. Add a new § 416.1532 to read as follows: § 416.1532 Waiver of fee or direct payment, or both. (a) Your representative may choose to waive the right to charge and receive a fee. An otherwise eligible representative who wishes to charge and receive a fee may waive the right to direct payment. A representative who waives the right to direct payment does not automatically waive the right to charge and receive a fee. (b) Your representative must file a form we prescribe to waive direct payment of the fee. E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules (c) A waiver of the right to charge and receive a fee or of direct payment, or both, will apply to fees approved by a Federal court, unless it is otherwise specifically noted on the form completed in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section. (d) If you have appointed an entity as your representative, any registered employee of the entity may sign the form completed in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section to waive the fee or direct payment, or both, on behalf of the entity. 56. Amend § 416.1540 by revising the first sentence of paragraph (a)(1), paragraph (b) introductory text, paragraph (b)(3) introductory text, the third sentence of paragraph (b)(3)(i), and the second sentence of paragraph (b)(3)(ii), adding paragraphs (b)(3)(iii) and (b)(4), revising paragraphs (c) introductory text , (c)(4), (c)(6), and (c)(7)(iii), and adding paragraphs (c)(8) through (c)(13) to read as follows: sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS § 416.1540 Rules of conduct and standards of responsibility for representatives. (a) * * * (1) All persons acting on behalf of a party seeking a statutory right or benefit must, in their dealings with us, faithfully execute their duties as agents and fiduciaries of a party. * * * (b) Affirmative duties. A representative must, in conformity with the regulations setting forth our existing duties and responsibilities and those of claimants (see § 416.912 in disability and blindness claims): * * * * * (3) Conduct the representative’s dealings in a manner that furthers the efficient, fair, and orderly conduct of the administrative decision-making process, including duties to: (i) * * * This includes knowing the significant issue(s) in a claim and having a working knowledge of the applicable provisions of the Social Security Act, as amended, the regulations and the Rulings; (ii) * * * This includes providing prompt and responsive answers to requests from the Agency for information pertinent to processing of the claim; and (iii) Maintain a paper copy of the form described in § 416.1507(a) that reflects the representative’s and the claimant’s signatures and respective signature dates appointing the representative, and maintain copies of the signed attestations described in § 416.1530(g), and provide paper copies to us on request. (4) If the representative is a professional representative, conduct VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 business with us electronically at the times and in the manner that we prescribe when submitting any written request for reconsideration or a hearing before an administrative law judge on an initial disability claim that was based on medical factors. (c) Prohibited actions. A representative must not: * * * * * (4) Through the representative’s own actions or omissions, unreasonably delay or cause to be delayed, without good cause (see § 416.1411(b)), the processing of a claim at any stage of the administrative decision-making process; * * * * * (6) Attempt to influence, directly or indirectly, the outcome of a decision, determination or other administrative action by offering or granting a loan, gift, entertainment or anything of value to a presiding official, Agency employee or witness who is or may reasonably be expected to be involved in the administrative decisionmaking process, except as reimbursement for legitimately incurred expenses or lawful compensation for the services of an expert witness retained on a noncontingency basis to provide evidence; (7) * * * (iii) Threatening or intimidating language, gestures or actions directed at a presiding official, witness or Agency employee which results in a disruption of the orderly presentation and reception of evidence; (8) Violate any section of the Social Security Act for which a criminal or civil monetary penalty is prescribed; (9) Refuse to comply with any of our rules or regulations; (10) Suggest, assist, or direct another person to violate our rules or regulations; (11) Advise any claimant or beneficiary not to comply with any of our rules and regulations; (12) Assist another person whom we have suspended or disqualified; or (13) Fail to comply with our decision regarding sanctions. 57. Amend § 416.1550 by revising paragraphs (a) and (d) to read as follows: § 416.1550 Notice of charges against a representative. (a) The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will prepare a notice containing a statement of charges that constitutes the basis for the proceeding against the representative. * * * * * (d) The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51981 designate), or his or her designee, may extend the 30-day period for good cause in accordance with § 416.1411. * * * * * 58. Revise § 416.1555 to read as follows: § 416.1555 Withdrawing charges against a representative. The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, may withdraw charges against a representative. We will do this if the representative files an answer, or we obtain evidence, that satisfies us that we should not suspend or disqualify the representative from acting as a representative in dealings with us. When we consider withdrawing charges brought under § 416.1545(d) or (e) based on the representative’s assertion that, before or after our filing of charges, the representative has been reinstated to practice by the court, bar, or Federal program or Federal agency that suspended, disbarred, or disqualified the representative, the General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will determine whether such reinstatement occurred, whether it remains in effect, and whether he or she is reasonably satisfied that the representative will in the future act in accordance with the provisions of section 206(a) of the Act and our rules and regulations. If the representative proves that reinstatement occurred and remains in effect and the General Counsel, or his or her designee, is so satisfied, the General Counsel, or his or her designee, will withdraw those charges. The action of the General Counsel, or his or her designee, regarding withdrawal of charges is solely that of the General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, and is not reviewable, or subject to consideration in decisions made under §§ 416.1570 and 416.1590. If we withdraw the charges, we will notify the representative by mail at the representative’s last known address. 59. Amend § 416.1565 by revising paragraphs (a), (b)(1), and (e), the first sentence of paragraph (g)(2), and paragraphs (i), (l), and (m) to read as follows: § 416.1565 Hearing on charges. (a) Holding the hearing. If the General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, does not take action to withdraw the charges within 15 days after the date on which the representative filed an answer, we will hold a hearing and make a decision on the charges. E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS 51982 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules (b) Hearing officer. (1) The Deputy Commissioner for Disability Adjudication and Review (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will assign an administrative law judge, designated to act as a hearing officer, to hold a hearing on the charges. * * * * * (e) Parties. The representative against whom charges have been made is a party to the hearing. The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will also be a party to the hearing. * * * * * (g) Conduct of the hearing. * * * (2) If the representative did not file an answer to the charges, the representative has no right to present evidence at the hearing. * * * * * * * * (i) Witnesses. Witnesses who testify at the hearing must do so under oath or affirmation. Either the representative or a person representing the representative may question the witnesses. The other party and that party’s representative must also be allowed to question the witnesses. The hearing officer may also ask questions as considered necessary, and will rule upon any objection made by either party about whether any question is proper. * * * * * (l) Representation. The representative, as the person charged, may appear in person and may be represented by an attorney or other representative. The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, will be represented by one or more attorneys from the Office of the General Counsel. (m) Failure to Appear. If the representative or the other party to the hearing fails to appear after being notified of the time and place, the hearing officer may hold the hearing anyway so that the party present may offer evidence to sustain or rebut the charges. The hearing officer will give the other party who failed to appear an opportunity to show good cause for failure to appear. If the party fails to show good cause, the party is considered to have waived the right to be present at the hearing. If the party shows good cause, the hearing officer may hold a supplemental hearing. * * * * * 60. Amend § 416.1570 by revising paragraphs (a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3) introductory text, (a)(3)(ii), (b)(2), and (b)(3) to read as follows: VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 § 416.1570 Decision by hearing officer. (a) General. (1) After the close of the hearing, the hearing officer will issue a decision or certify the case to the Appeals Council. The decision must be in writing, will contain findings of fact and conclusions of law, and be based upon the evidence of record. (2) In deciding whether a person has been, by reason of misconduct, disbarred or suspended by a court or bar, or disqualified from participating in or appearing before any Federal program or agency, the hearing officer will consider the reasons for the disbarment, suspension, or disqualification action. If the action was taken for solely administrative reasons (e.g., failure to pay dues or to complete continuing legal education requirements), that will not disqualify the person from acting as a representative before us. However, this exception to disqualification does not apply if the administrative action was taken in lieu of disciplinary proceedings (e.g., acceptance of a voluntary resignation pending disciplinary action). Although the hearing officer will consider whether the disbarment, suspension, or disqualification action is based on misconduct when deciding whether a person should be disqualified from acting as a representative before us, the hearing officer will not reexamine or revise the factual or legal conclusions that led to the disbarment, suspension, or disqualification. (3) If the hearing officer finds that the charges against the representative have been sustained, he or she will either— * * * * * (ii) Disqualify the representative from acting as a representative in dealings with us until the representative may be reinstated under § 416.1599. Disqualification is the sole sanction available if the charges have been sustained because the representative has been disbarred or suspended from any court or bar to which the representative was previously admitted to practice or disqualified from participating in or appearing before any Federal program or agency, or because the representative has collected or received, and retains, a fee for representational services in excess of the amount authorized. * * * * * (b) Effect of hearing officer’s decision. * * * (2) If the final decision is that a person is disqualified from being a representative in dealings with us, the representative will not be permitted to represent anyone in dealings with us until authorized to do so under the provisions of § 416.1599. PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 (3) If the final decision is that a person is suspended for a specified period of time from being a representative in dealings with us, the representative will not be permitted to represent anyone in dealings with us during the period of suspension unless authorized to do so under the provisions of § 416.1599. 61. Amend § 416.1580 by revising paragraph (b) to read as follows: § 416.1580 Appeals Council’s review of hearing officer’s decision. * * * * * (b) If a party files a brief or other written statement with the Appeals Council, the party must send a copy to the opposing party and certify that the copy has been sent. 62. Amend § 416.1599 by revising paragraphs (b), (c), (d)(2), (d)(3), and (e), to read as follows: § 416.1599 Reinstatement after suspension or disqualification—period of suspension not expired. * * * * * (b) The suspended or disqualified person must submit any evidence the person wishes to have considered along with the request to be allowed to serve as a representative again. (c) The General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee, upon notification of receipt of the request, will have 30 days in which to present a written report of any experiences with the suspended or disqualified person subsequent to that person’s suspension or disqualification. The Appeals Council will make available to the suspended or disqualified person a copy of the report. (d) * * * (2) If a person was disqualified because the person had been disbarred or suspended from a court or bar, the Appeals Council will grant a request for reinstatement as a representative only if the criterion in paragraph (d)(1) of this section is met and the disqualified person shows that the person has been admitted (or readmitted) to and is in good standing with the court or bar from which the person had been disbarred or suspended. (3) If a person was disqualified because the person had been disqualified from participating in or appearing before a Federal program or Federal agency, the Appeals Council will grant the request for reinstatement only if the criterion in paragraph (d)(1) of this section is met and the disqualified person shows that the person is now qualified to participate in E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 174 / Monday, September 8, 2008 / Proposed Rules or appear before that Federal program or Federal agency. * * * * * (e) The Appeals Council will mail a notice of its decision on the request for reinstatement to the suspended or disqualified person. It will also mail a copy to the General Counsel (or other official the Commissioner may designate), or his or her designee. * * * * * § 422.515 Forms used for withdrawal, reconsideration and other appeals, and appointment of representative. PART 422—ORGANIZATION AND PROCEDURES BILLING CODE 4191–02–P Subpart C—[Amended] POSTAL REGULATORY COMMISSION 63. The authority for subpart C of part 422 continues to read as follows: 39 CFR Part 3001 Authority: Secs. 205, 221, and 702(a)(5) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 405, 421, and 902(a)(5)); 30 U.S.C. 923(b). [FR Doc. E8–20500 Filed 9–5–08; 8:45 am] [Docket No. RM2008–2; Order Nos. 99 and 102] Periodic Reporting Rules Postal Regulatory Commission. Proposed rule; availability of rulemaking petition. AGENCY: 64. Amend § 422.203 by revising paragraph (b)(1) to read as follows: § 422.203 * * * Prescribed forms include our traditional pre-printed forms, forms completed on computer screens based on information you give us, or SSAapproved forms completed and submitted using SSA’s Internet Web site. * * * * * ACTION: Hearings. * * * * * (b) Request for hearing. (1) A request for a hearing under paragraph (a) of this section may be made on Form HA–501, ‘‘Request for Hearing,’’ Form HA–501.1, ‘‘Request for Hearing, part A Hospital Insurance Benefits,’’ electronically at the times and in the manner that we prescribe (see §§ 404.933, 404.934, 416.1433, and 416.1434 of this chapter), or by any other writing requesting a hearing. The request must be filed at an office of the Social Security Administration, usually a district office or a branch office, or at the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines (except in title XVI cases), or at a hearing office of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, or with the Appeals Council. A qualified railroad retirement beneficiary may, if (s)he prefers, file a request for a hearing under part A of title XVIII with the Railroad Retirement Board. Form HA– 501 may be obtained from any Social Security district office or branch office. * * * * * Subpart F—[Amended] SUMMARY: Under a new law, the Postal Service must file an annual compliance report with the Postal Regulatory Commission on costs, revenues, rates, and quality of service associated with its products. It has filed documents with the Commission to change some of the methods it uses to compile the fiscal year 2008 report. In the Commission’s view, these documents constitute a rulemaking petition. Therefore, it has established a rulemaking docket to allow the public to comment on potential changes in periodic reporting rules. DATES: 1. Technical conference: August 27, 2008 at 10 a.m. 2. Initial comments: September 8, 2008. 3. Reply comments: September 15, 2008. Submit comments electronically via the Commission’s Filing Online system at http:// www.prc.gov. ADDRESSES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen L. Sharfman, General Counsel, 202–789–6820 and stephen.sharfman@prc.gov. On August 11, 2008, the Commission received Request of the United States Postal Service for Commission Order Amending the Established Costing Methodologies for Purposes of Preparing the FY 2008 Annual Compliance Report (Request). In the Request, the Postal Service states that it has eight changes that it would like to make to the methods by which it compiles the FY SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: sroberts on PROD1PC70 with PROPOSALS 65. The authority citation for subpart F of part 422 continues to read as follows: Authority: Sec. 1140(a)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. 1320b–10(a)(2)(A) (Pub. L. 103–296, Sec. 312(a)). 66. Amend § 422.515 by adding a second sentence to the introductory text to read as follows: VerDate Aug<31>2005 17:57 Sep 05, 2008 Jkt 214001 PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 51983 2008 version of the annual report that is required by 39 U.S.C. 3652 to provide to the Commission each year. It cites 39 U.S.C. 3652(a)(1), which gives the Commission the responsibility to prescribe methods that are used to produce the information that is compiled in the annual report. Request at 2. Among other things, the information supplied in the annual report is used by the Commission to prepare the Annual Compliance Determination (ACD) that is required by 39 U.S.C. 3653. The Postal Service references pages 9– 10 of the most recent Commission ACD. FY 2008 Annual Compliance Determination, March 27, 2007 (FY 2007 ACD). There, numerous commenters recommended that the Postal Service not change methods for collecting and analyzing cost data unless interested persons have had an opportunity to evaluate and comment on them. The Commission concurred, stating that it intended to issue regulations governing periodic reports generally (including the Postal Service’s annual report) that would vet proposed changes in analytical methods through informal rulemakings in advance of the filing of the report. FY 2007 ACD at 10. I. Procedural Expedition The Postal Service notes that it is already preparing its annual report for FY 2008. Given the lead time that is required, it observes that it is unlikely that the regulations that the Commission described in its FY 2007 ACD can be issued, and public scrutiny of particular changes in analytical methods could be completed under those regulations, in time to be incorporated in its FY 2008 annual report. It therefore asks that an alternative, expedited procedure be used to vet its proposed changes in analytical methods. In the Postal Service’s view, none of its proposed methodological changes ‘‘are of sufficient complexity to hinder relatively straightforward evaluation by both the parties and the Commission.’’ Request at 2. It therefore proposes that its filing be treated as a rule 21 motion for a Commission order approving its proposed changes to current baseline methods used to analyze costs. Id., n.2. The Postal Service notes that its Request includes the rationale for each of the eight methodological changes that it proposes, and estimates the impact of each change on the costs borne by mail classes. Equipped with this information, it suggests, the public could provide input in the form of answers supporting or opposing the motion. It recognizes, however, that the 7-day period that rule 21 allows for answers to motions should E:\FR\FM\08SEP1.SGM 08SEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 174 (Monday, September 8, 2008)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 51963-51983]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-20500]


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SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

20 CFR Parts 404, 408, 416, and 422

[Docket No. SSA-2007-0068]
RIN 0960-AG56


Revisions to Rules on Representation of Parties

AGENCY: Social Security Administration.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

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SUMMARY: We are proposing several revisions to our rules on 
representation of parties. These proposed rules would recognize 
entities as representatives, define the concept of a principal 
representative, and authorize principal representatives to sign and 
file a claim for benefits on behalf of a claimant. These proposed rules 
would also mandate the use of Form SSA-1696 to appoint, revoke, or 
withdraw an appointment of a representative, and to waive a fee or 
direct payment of the fee. We propose to define the concept of a 
professional representative and require professional representatives to 
use our electronic services as they become available, including 
requiring professional representatives to submit certain requests for 
reconsideration or a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) 
electronically. Finally, we propose to require representatives to keep 
paper copies of certain documents that we may require. We are proposing 
these revisions to reflect changes in representatives' business 
practices and to improve our efficiency by enhancing use of the 
Internet.

DATES: To make sure that your comments are considered, we must receive 
them no later than November 7, 2008.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any one of four methods--
Internet, facsimile, regular mail, or hand-delivery. Commenters should 
not submit the same comments multiple times or by more than one method. 
Regardless of which of the following methods you choose, please state 
that your comments refer to Docket No. SSA-2007-0068 to ensure that we 
can associate your comments with the correct regulation:
    1. Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov. (This 
is the most expedient method for submitting your comments, and we 
strongly urge you to use it.) In the Search Documents section of the 
Web page, type ``SSA-2007-0068'', select ``Go'', and then click ``Send 
a Comment or Submission.'' The Federal eRulemaking portal issues you a 
tracking number when you submit a comment.
    2. Telefax to (410) 966-2830.
    3. Letter to the Commissioner of Social Security, P.O. Box 17703, 
Baltimore, MD 21235-7703.
    4. Deliver your comments to the Office of Regulations, Social 
Security Administration, 922 Altmeyer Building, 6401 Security 
Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21235-6401, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. 
on regular business days.
    All comments are posted on the Federal eRulemaking portal, although 
they may not appear for several days after receipt of the comment. You 
may also inspect the comments on regular business days by making 
arrangements with the contact person shown in this preamble.
    Caution: All comments we receive from members of the public are 
available for public viewing on the Federal eRulemaking portal at 
http://www.regulations.gov. Therefore, you should be careful to include 
in your comments only information that you wish to make publicly 
available on the Internet. We strongly urge you not to include any 
personal information, such as your Social Security number or medical 
information, in your comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marg Handel, Supervisory Social 
Insurance Specialist, Office of Income Security Programs, Social 
Security Administration, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21235-
6401, (410) 965-4639. For information on eligibility or filing for 
benefits, call our national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 or TTY 1-
800-325-0778, or visit our Internet site, Social Security Online, at 
http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Version

    The electronic file of this document is available on the date of 
publication in the Federal Register at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/
index.html.

Explanation of Changes

Background

    We may issue rules and regulations to administer the provisions of 
the Act. 42 U.S.C. 405(a), 902(a)(5), 810(a), and 1383(d)(1). 
Specifically, we may issue regulations to recognize agents or other 
persons, other than attorneys, as representatives of individuals 
claiming benefits under the programs we administer. 42 U.S.C. 406(a)(1) 
and 1383(d)(2). We may also issue regulations to administer the Special 
Benefits for Certain World War II Veterans program, 42 U.S.C. 1010, and 
we have extended the rules by which we appoint and discipline 
representatives for claims under that program except where to do so 
would be impractical or contrary to the Act. 20 CFR 408.1101. Pursuant 
to the cited authority, we propose to revise our current regulations on 
Representation of Parties found in part 404 subparts G, J, and R, part 
408 subpart K, part 416 subparts C, N, and O, and part 422 subparts C 
and F.

Recognizing Entities as Representatives

    Individuals who want to obtain benefits from us may want someone to 
help them through the application process. Frequently, such claimants 
formally appoint a representative to act on their behalf and help guide 
their claim. A representative may, on behalf of a claimant, obtain and 
submit information and evidence about the claim, make statements about 
facts and law, and make requests or give notices about the claim to us. 
In return, the representative may receive a fee for their services from 
a portion of the claimant's past-due benefits.
    Currently, we recognize attorneys or other ``persons'' as 
representatives of individuals who claim benefits under title II or 
title XVI of the Act. 42 U.S.C. 406(a)(1) and 1383(d)(1). Although the 
term ``person'' is defined broadly in the Act to include partnerships, 
corporations, and associations, we have previously chosen to recognize 
only individuals as representatives of claimants. In the decades since 
we adopted that policy, the business practices of those who represent 
claimants have changed significantly. Many representatives now practice 
in group settings and provide their services collectively to claimants. 
In addition, many claimants may prefer to hire a

[[Page 51964]]

firm rather than a single individual within the firm. Recognizing 
entities as representatives will make it easier for individuals to 
obtain the representation they want. We believe it is appropriate for 
us to propose to amend our rules to more accurately reflect the changes 
in the way representatives conduct their businesses.
    Under our current process, we require the filing of a new Form SSA-
1696, Appointment of Representative, to appoint each individual 
associated with an entity who represents a claimant before us. By 
recognizing entities as representatives, we will give claimants better 
flexibility to pursue their claims by not requiring the filing of a new 
Form SSA-1696 for each entity employee who represents a claimant during 
the claims process. This proposal will allow entities who represent 
claimants to alternate employees to represent a claimant based on 
availability and workload. However, an entity will be bound by the 
signatures and actions of its employees during their association with 
the entity, regardless of whether that association ends at a later 
date. If the claimant appoints an entity as his or her representative, 
the entity employee who signs the Form SSA-1696 on behalf of the entity 
will be considered the contact person for the entity for the purpose of 
receiving notices and information from us until or unless the entity 
updates its contact person information.
    The proposed change also will allow us to properly pay entities for 
the representational services they provide to claimants, if certain 
conditions are met. It also makes our reporting to the Internal Revenue 
Service (IRS) and the issuance of Form IRS 1099-MISC to entities more 
efficient. We propose to permit ``direct payment'' of fees to entities 
if the employees who perform representational services on their behalf 
meet our requirements for direct payment. 42 U.S.C. 406 and the Social 
Security Protection Act of 2004 (SSPA), Public Law 108-203, section 
301.
    We propose to include these rules in Sec. Sec.  404.1703, 404.1710, 
404.1712, 404.1715, 404.1720, 404.1730, 404.1732, 416.1503, 416.1510, 
416.1512, 416.1515, 416.1520, 416.1530, and 416.1732. We also propose 
to make conforming changes to other sections.

Multiple Representatives and the Role of a Principal Representative

    We propose new rules explaining our current policy that a claimant 
may appoint multiple representatives to represent him or her at the 
same time. A claimant may appoint one or more individuals or entities 
to work on his or her claim at the same time. A principal 
representative is responsible for disseminating information and 
requests from us to a claimant and the claimant's other 
representatives, if any. It is our current practice to require a 
claimant to appoint a principal representative only if the claimant 
appoints more than one representative. We now propose to require that a 
claimant choose and appoint a principal representative. If a claimant 
appoints only one representative, that individual or entity is the 
principal representative.
    If a principal representative's authority ends for any reason, and 
the claimant continues to be represented by only one appointed 
representative, we will consider that appointed representative to be 
the claimant's principal representative until the claimant files a new 
Form SSA-1696 with us designating another principal representative. If 
a principal representative's authority ends for any reason, and the 
claimant continues to be represented by multiple representatives, we 
will name one of the appointed representatives as the principal 
representative. The claimant may change the principal representative by 
filing a new Form SSA-1696.
    We also propose to allow principal representatives to sign and file 
applications on behalf of claimants, provided the claimant has 
opportunity to review and verify the accuracy of the completed 
application. We expect this change to expedite the claims filing 
process, simplify the application process for some claimants, and 
afford the principal representative the opportunity to better serve the 
client. However, a claimant will have to expressly acknowledge on the 
Form SSA-1696 that he or she is responsible for the information 
provided to the principal representative for the application. We 
believe that this type of acknowledgement is necessary to ensure that 
the claimant remains responsible for the content of the application.
    We will send to a claimant and his or her representatives notices 
relating to the appointment of a principal representative and other 
representatives, the revocation of the appointment of any 
representative, and the withdrawal of any representative. We will also 
send notices regarding the release of a claimant's past-due benefits to 
any representative who fails to file a request for approval of a fee.
    Through these changes, we believe that we will better accommodate 
the needs of claimants and their representatives, that claimants' 
representatives will be better able to serve their clients, and that we 
will process fee payments more efficiently.
    We propose to include these rules in Sec. Sec.  404.612, 404.1700, 
404.1703, 404.1705, 404.1707, 404.1710, 404.1715, 408.1101, 416.315, 
416.1500, 416.1503, 416.1505, 416.1507, 416.1510, and 416.1515.

The Role of a Professional Representative

    We propose to introduce the concept of a professional 
representative and to distinguish it from a principal representative. A 
professional representative includes any attorney, any individual other 
than an attorney, or any entity that holds itself out to the public as 
providing representational services before us (see Sec. Sec.  404.1735 
and 416.1535), regardless of whether the representative charges or 
collects a fee for providing the representational services.
    We also propose to require that professional representatives 
conduct business with us electronically at the times and in the manner 
that we prescribe. For example, we intend to require a professional 
representative to use electronic media that we prescribe, such as the 
Internet, to register with us and to file certain requests for 
reconsideration and hearings before an ALJ. We are continuing to 
improve access for claimants, representatives, and the general public 
to forms and information about our programs by automating more of our 
business processes. When we have completed the automation of a specific 
business process that we intend to require, such as the use of Form 
SSA-1696, Appointment of Representative, we will announce in the 
Federal Register that the process has been automated and will be 
required.
    If a professional representative cannot access our system because 
the representative's system is not functioning, our system is not 
functioning, the electronic media is not available, or because the 
representative's system cannot communicate with our system, we will 
waive the requirement that the professional representative use the 
electronic media that we prescribe. If the error is related to the 
representative's system rather than our system, we will require some 
type of documentation explaining why the representative is requesting 
the waiver.
    We are particularly interested in receiving public comment on our 
definition of ``professional representative.'' While we believe that 
the proposed definition covers the vast majority of representatives who 
do

[[Page 51965]]

business with us, we are interested in receiving public comment on 
whether our proposed definition adequately includes all relevant 
organizations.
    We propose to include these rules in Sec. Sec.  404.910, 404.934, 
404.1703, 404.1707, 404.1713, 416.1410, 416.1434, 416.1503, 416.1507, 
and 416.1513.

Access Registration

    We propose to require professional representatives and their 
employees to complete an initial access registration with us through 
the use of electronic media that we prescribe. Representatives who are 
not classified as professional representatives and their employees will 
also be required to complete an initial access registration with us, 
but will be permitted to do so either electronically or by other means. 
Access registration requires representatives and their employees to 
supply us with certain personal, professional, and business affiliation 
information that we will use to authenticate and authorize 
representatives and their employees to do business with us. This 
initial registration will also require professional representatives and 
their employees to provide us with specific attestations to ensure that 
they know, understand, and will comply with our rules and regulations. 
Access registration is a one-time process, and it will allow us to 
process each claim more efficiently. However, representatives and their 
employees must update the access registration if their personal, 
professional, or business affiliation information changes. The 
authorization and authentication process will also assist us in 
safeguarding the personally identifiable information provided to us.
    We propose to include these rules in Sec. Sec.  404.1703, 404.1705, 
404.1713, 416.1503, 416.1505, and 416.1513.

Direct Payment Registration

    We pay representatives' fees out of a portion of the past-due 
benefits for claims under title II of the Act. Under provisions of the 
SSPA, we also are authorized to withhold and pay fees approved for 
attorneys in title XVI cases, and to withhold and pay fees approved for 
certain non-attorney representatives in cases under title II and title 
XVI of the Act.
    On October 2, 2006, we published a notice in the Federal Register 
that advised both attorneys and eligible non-attorney representatives 
of additional requirements that a representative must meet in order for 
us to pay some or all of an approved fee directly to the representative 
from a claimant's past-due benefits. 71 FR 58043. That notice explained 
the registration process that a representative must complete in order 
to receive direct fee payment in a specific claim. We now propose to 
pay all representative fees via electronic funds transfer. This 
proposal will allow us to make direct payment of the representative's 
fee more efficiently, to more accurately report payments to the IRS, 
and to issue IRS Form 1099-MISC more quickly.
    To ensure that we only make direct payments for work done by 
attorneys and eligible non-attorneys, there are certain actions that 
must be taken before an entity may receive direct payment of fees. Any 
entity seeking direct payment of fees must maintain, and provide to us 
upon our request, a signed statement from each of the entity's 
attorneys and eligible non-attorneys who represent claimants before us. 
The statement must state that the attorney or eligible non-attorney is 
performing representational services on behalf of the entity. The 
statement must also assert that any fees should be paid directly to the 
entity and that the representatives receive any compensation directly 
from the entity. Any request for direct payment of fees made by an 
entity must include an attestation that the entity is in possession of 
this signed statement from each attorney or eligible non-attorney who 
has performed any representational services for the claim in question. 
Additionally, the entity must attest that all individuals who have 
performed representational services on the claim in question are 
individuals who qualify for direct payment under the Act or the SSPA. 
Such services include, but are not limited to, representing the 
claimant at any hearing or proceeding before the Agency or before a 
Federal court.
    We also propose to modify our current rules to clarify that we may 
issue IRS Form 1099-MISC to both individuals and entities for payments 
over the annual aggregate of $600. We will gather additional 
information during the registration process to simplify our compliance 
with the applicable Internal Revenue Service's regulation, 26 CFR 
1.6045-5.
    We propose to include these changes in Sec. Sec.  404.1703, 
404.1713, 404.1730, 416.1503, 416.1513, and 416.1530.

New Requirements to Use Form SSA-1696 to Appoint or Revoke the 
Appointment of a Representative and to Waive a Fee, Direct Payment of a 
Fee, or Both

    We propose to require that a claimant use Form SSA-1696 to appoint 
or revoke the appointment of a representative. Similarly, we propose to 
require that a representative use Form SSA-1696 when the representative 
withdraws from representing a claimant. Currently, when a claimant 
appoints a representative using Form SSA-1696, we require only non-
attorney representatives to sign the Form SSA-1696. However, we are 
moving toward an electronic process that will require the ``electronic 
signature'' of professional representatives, including attorneys, on 
the Form SSA-1696. To make the paper process as consistent as possible 
with the electronic process we envision, we propose to require both the 
signature of the claimant and the signature of any representative, 
including an attorney representative, on the paper Form SSA-1696 for 
the appointment of a representative. Making this change now will permit 
a seamless transition to the electronic process in the future.
    We also propose to require a representative to use the Form SSA-
1696 to waive a fee for representing the claimant before us, to waive 
direct payment of the fee, or both. By standardizing the transaction 
for these situations to one commonly-used form, we will simplify the 
process for our claimants and their representatives, and we will be 
able to manage the appointment, fee authorization, and fee payment 
processes more efficiently. We also propose to clarify our policies 
about when a claimant's appointment of a representative begins and 
ends.
    We propose to include these rules in Sec. Sec.  404.1707, 404.1712, 
404.1732, 416.1507, 416.1512, and 416.1532.

Internet Appeals

    We propose to require professional representatives to submit 
certain requests for administrative appeal electronically at the times 
and in the manner that we prescribe, e.g., through the Internet. 
Claimants who are unrepresented or who are represented by individuals 
who are not classified as professional representatives may continue to 
file certain requests for reconsideration or an ALJ hearing by 
submitting either paper forms at one of our offices or using the 
electronic media we prescribe. We currently are making our Internet 
Appeals Web portal available for this purpose. That Web portal, which 
is now being voluntarily used by representatives to file requests for 
reconsideration and ALJ hearings, can be found at https://
secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/iAppeals/ap001.jsp.
    By requiring professional representatives to file certain requests 
for appeal with us electronically, we are following precedent set in 
the Federal court system. According to the Federal

[[Page 51966]]

judiciary's Case Management and Electronic Case Files System, as of 
February 2008, electronic filing systems are in use in 99% of Federal 
courts, over 31 million cases are maintained on these systems, and more 
than 320,000 users have filed documents over the Internet. Requiring 
professional representatives to file certain requests for 
reconsideration or an ALJ hearing via the Internet is a cost-effective 
measure that we expect will increase our efficiency and help reduce the 
disability determination backlog.
    We do not expect this requirement to impose a burden on 
professional representatives. Representatives currently use several of 
our online services extensively, including the online Disability Report 
and the Electronic Records Express (ERE) system, which allows 
representatives to submit evidence to the electronic folder. We 
implemented the Internet Appeals software application in December 2007, 
and, to date, representatives have filed almost 100,000 appeals 
electronically. We may expand this electronic process to include 
appeals to the Appeals Council at a later time.
    We propose to include these rules in Sec. Sec.  404.901, 404.909, 
404.910, 404.933, 404.934, 404.1740, 416.1401, 416.1409, 416.1410, 
416.1433, 416.1434, and 416.1540.

New Affirmative Duties for Representatives

    We propose to add a new affirmative duty for professional 
representatives and individuals working on their behalf to provide us 
with specific attestations to ensure they know, understand, and will 
comply with our rules and regulations. As indicated above, these 
attestations will be provided during the access registration process. 
We also propose to add a new affirmative duty for professional 
representatives, and for non-professional representatives who choose to 
file the Appointment of Representative form electronically. These 
representatives must keep, and provide to us upon request, paper copies 
of the Form SSA-1696 with the original signature of the claimant, the 
electronic signature of the representative, and the respective dates of 
the signing. Further, we will require entities to maintain, and provide 
to us on request, a signed statement from each attorney, eligible non-
attorney, and employee. In the statement, they must aver that they are 
performing all representational services on behalf of the entity, that 
any fees should be paid directly to the entity, and that they will 
receive compensation directly from the entity.
    We also propose to place an affirmative duty on professional 
representatives to file certain requests for reconsideration or an ALJ 
hearing using the electronic media that we prescribe. However, if a 
representative disregards or violates our rules or regulations, we will 
not penalize the claimant. We will not reject or delay a claimant's 
request for appeal or process it differently than a request for appeal 
submitted correctly.
    Violation of these affirmative duties may subject the 
representative to sanctions under 20 CFR 404.1745 and 416.1545. We may 
ask representatives to provide us with forms, documents, copies of 
signed statements, and other information to confirm that 
representatives are complying with our rules. We expect that these 
changes will create safeguards against fraudulent activity.
    Consistent with our proposal to recognize entities as 
representatives and our recognition that the business practices of 
those who represent claimants have changed significantly, we propose to 
clarify that an attorney or a non-attorney whom a claimant has not 
appointed as his representative but who works for or on behalf of the 
claimant's appointed representative and helps represent the claimant in 
his claim before us will also be subject to our rules of conduct and 
standards of responsibility and our sanctions procedures in 20 CFR 
404.1740-404.1799 and 416.1540-416.1599.
    We propose to add these rules in Sec. Sec.  404.1703, 404.1740, 
416.1503, and 416.1540.

New Prohibited Actions for Representatives

    We propose to revise our list of prohibited actions to include 
three additional items: refusing to comply with any of our regulations, 
violating any section of the Act for which a criminal or civil monetary 
penalty is prescribed, and assisting another individual whom we have 
suspended or disqualified. Violation of these prohibited actions may 
subject the representative, or an attorney or a non-attorney whom a 
claimant has not appointed as his representative but who works for or 
on behalf of the claimant's appointed representative and helps 
represent the claimant in his claim before us, to sanctions under 
Sec. Sec.  404.1745 and 416.1545. We propose to add these rules in 
Sec. Sec.  404.1740 and 416.1540.

Other Changes

    We propose several additional changes. First, we propose to clarify 
that we may reject a claimant's appointment of a representative if the 
representative does not meet our requirements and that we will notify 
the claimant and the claimant's representative of our decision. 
Sec. Sec.  404.903, 404.1705, 416.1403, and 416.1505. Our refusal to 
accept an appointment of a representative is not an administrative 
action subject to our administrative review process.
    Second, we propose to add several new definitions, revise existing 
definitions, and to move existing definitions from Sec. Sec.  404.1770 
and 416.1570 to Sec. Sec.  404.1703 and 416.1503. These definitions 
include the terms: ``disqualify,'' ``electronic media,'' ``Federal 
agency,'' ``Federal program,'' ``fee petition,'' ``person,'' 
``principal representative,'' ``professional representative,'' and 
``representative.'' We also propose to add a new definition for 
``initial disability claim'' to Sec. Sec.  404.901 and 416.1401.
    Third, we propose in several sections to change references from the 
Deputy Commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs to the 
General Counsel and references from the Associate Commissioner for 
Hearings and Appeals to the Deputy Commissioner for Disability 
Adjudication and Review to reflect a recent reorganization and a new 
delegation of authority. Finally, we propose to make other minor 
conforming changes.

Clarity of These Rules

    Executive Order 12866, as amended, requires each agency to write 
all rules in plain language. In addition to your substantive comments 
on these proposed rules, we invite your comments on how to make them 
easier to understand.
    For example:
     Have we organized the material to suit your needs?
     Are the requirements in the rules clearly stated?
     Do the rules contain technical language or jargon that 
isn't clear?
     Would a different format (grouping and order of sections, 
use of headings, paragraphing) make the rules easier to understand?
     Would more (but shorter) sections be better?
     Could we improve clarity by adding tables, lists, or 
diagrams?
     What else could we do to make the rules easier to 
understand?
When Will We Start To Use These Rules?
    We will not use these rules until we evaluate the public comments 
we

[[Page 51967]]

receive on them, determine whether they should be issued as final 
rules, and issue final rules in the Federal Register. If we publish 
final rules, we will explain in the preamble how we will apply them, 
and summarize and respond to the public comments. Until the effective 
date of any final rules, we will continue to use our current rules.

Regulatory Procedures

Executive Order 12866, as Amended

    We have consulted with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
and determined that these proposed rules meet the criteria for a 
significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866, as amended. 
Therefore, they were reviewed by OMB.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    We certify that these proposed rules will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Although 
these proposed rules would require small entities to provide us with 
certain information and to use available electronic services in certain 
instances, small entities would not be disadvantaged or limited in 
their ability to compete with larger competitors. Additionally, these 
proposed rules do not place significant costs on small entities. It is 
anticipated that small entities that take advantage of our electronic 
service delivery may find slight cost savings as a result of increased 
efficiency. Therefore, a regulatory flexibility analysis as provided in 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act, as amended, is not required.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    These regulations, which propose several revisions to our rules on 
Representation of Parties, contain reporting requirements in the 
regulation sections listed below. For some sections, we previously 
accounted for the public reporting burdens in the Information 
Collection Requests for the various forms the public uses to submit the 
information to SSA. Consequently, in those cases we inserted a 1-hour 
placeholder burden to these sections. For those sections whose public 
reporting burdens are not covered by an existing OMB-approved form, we 
provided burden estimates.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                          Average
                                         Number of     Frequency of     burden  per    Estimated  annual burden
 Regulation sections and description    respondents      response        response               (hours)
                                                                         (minutes)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
404.612; 404.1710; 416.315;                       --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 416.1510--Principal representatives
 may sign and file applications with
 SSA on beneficiaries' behalf.
404.909; 404.910; 404.1740;                       --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 416.1409; 416.1410; 416.1540--
 Disability claimants who wish to
 request a reconsideration must do
 so in writing within 60 days after
 notice of initial determination is
 received (unless SSA grants a time
 extension). Parties filing on their
 own behalf or using non-
 professional representatives may
 use SSA's Internet Web site to
 submit the request; professional
 representatives are required to do
 so.
404.933; 404.934; 416.1433;                       --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 416.1434--Disability claimants who
 wish to request a hearing before an
 administrative law judge must do so
 in writing within 60 days after
 notice of the previous
 determination/decision is received
 (unless SSA grants a time
 extension). Parties filing on their
 own behalf or using non-
 professional representatives may
 use SSA's Internet Web site to
 submit the request; professional
 representatives are required to do
 so.
404.1740; 416.1540--Professional                  --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 representatives for disability
 claimants must always use an SSA-
 approved form on SSA's Internet
 site to request a reconsideration
 or a hearing before an
 administrative law judge.
404.1705; 404.1707; 404.1712;                     --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 416.1505; 416.1507; 416.1512;
 408.1101--Procedures for
 beneficiary to appoint, change,
 revoke, or reappoint a
 representative and for
 representatives to accept
 appointment as representative or
 withdraw as representative.
404.1705; 404.1713; 404.1730;                     --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 416.1505; 416.1530; 416.1513--
 Representative must register with
 SSA to receive payment.
404.1712; 404.1720; 404.1725;                     --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 404.1730; 416.1512; 416.1520;
 416.1525; 416.1530--Procedures for
 representative to sign fee
 petition; and Representative must
 file a request with us to charge or
 receive a fee; and to obtain
 approval of a fee representative
 must file a written request with
 SSA.
404.1715; 416.1515--Principal                 56,000               5               2  9,333.
 representatives are responsible for
 informing other representatives of
 the beneficiary about any
 information SSA sent to the
 principal representative.
404.1728; 416.1528--If                            --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 representatives provide services to
 beneficiaries in connection with a
 hearing/court proceeding before SSA
 and wants to charge for those
 services, they must file a request
 and provide necessary documentation.
404.1732; 415,1532--Representatives               --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 may waive the right to charge and
 collect a fee, direct payment, or
 both.
404.1740; 416.1540--Procedures                    --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 requiring representatives to
 maintain hard copy of certain forms
 with signatures and dates of
 signing.
404.1755; 416.1555--If SSA files               (\1\)              --              --  --
 charges against a representative,
 the representative may contest
 these charges.
404.1780; 416.1580--If a party files           (\1\)              --              --  --
 a brief or other written statement
 with the Appeals Council, the party
 should send a copy to the opposite
 party and certify that they did so.
404.1799; 416.1599--Representatives            (\1\)              --              --  --
 who were suspended or disqualified
 should submit any evidence they
 want the Appeals Council to
 consider along with their request
 to be reinstated as a
 representative.

[[Page 51968]]

 
422.515--When SSA references                      --              --              --  1 (placeholder).
 ``forms'' for withdrawal,
 reconsideration, other appeals, and
 appointment of representatives,
 this refers to traditional printed
 forms, computer screens completed
 by SSA employees, or electronically
 submitted forms.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Less than 10 respondents.

    SSA submitted an Information Collection Request to OMB for 
clearance. We are soliciting comments on the burden estimate; the need 
for the information; its practical utility; ways to enhance its 
quality, utility and clarity; and on ways to minimize the burden on 
respondents, including the use of automated collection techniques or 
other forms of information technology. If you would like to submit 
comments, please send them to the following locations:
    Office of Management and Budget, Attn: Desk Officer for SSA, Fax 
Number: 202-395-6974, E-mail address: OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov
    Social Security Administration, Attn: Reports Clearance Officer, 
1333 Annex Building, 6401 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21235, Fax: 
410-965-6400, E-mail address: OPLM.RCO@ssa.gov.
    You can submit comments on the paperwork burdens associated with 
this rule for up to 60 days after publication of this notice; however, 
they will be most useful if you send them to SSA within 30 days of 
publication. This does not affect the deadline for the public to 
comment to SSA on the proposed regulations. To receive a copy of the 
OMB clearance package, contact the SSA Reports Clearance Office using 
any of the above contact methods. We prefer to receive comments by e-
mail or fax.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Nos. 96.001, Social 
Security--Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security--Retirement 
Insurance; 96.004, Social Security--Survivors Insurance; 96.006, 
Supplemental Security Income; and 96.020, Special Benefits for 
Certain World War II Veterans)

List of Subjects

20 CFR Part 404

    Administrative practice and procedure, Blind, Disability benefits, 
Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance, Penalties, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Social Security.

20 CFR Part 408

    Administrative practice and procedure, Aged, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Social Security, Supplemental Security 
Income (SSI), Veterans.

20 CFR Part 416

    Administrative practice and procedure, Penalties, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

20 CFR Part 422

    Administrative practice and procedure, Organization and functions 
(Government agencies), Social Security.

    Dated: August 27, 2008.
Michael J. Astrue,
Commissioner of Social Security.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, we propose to amend 20 CFR 
parts 404, 408, 416, and 422 as set forth below:

PART 404--FEDERAL OLD-AGE, SURVIVORS AND DISABILITY INSURANCE 
(1950-)

Subpart G--[Amended]

    1. The authority citation for subpart G of part 404 continues to 
read as follows:

    Authority: Secs. 202(i), (j), (o), (p), and (r), 205(a), 
216(i)(2), 223(b), 228(a), and 702(a)(5) of the Social Security Act 
(42 U.S.C. 402(i), (j), (o), (p), and (r), 405(a), 416(i)(2), 
423(b), 428(a), and 902(a)(5)).
    2. Amend Sec.  404.612 by adding paragraph (h) to read as follows:


Sec.  404.612  Who may sign an application.

* * * * *
    (h) Your principal representative (see Sec. Sec.  404.1705 and 
404.1707) may sign and file your application with us. If a principal 
representative signs an application on your behalf, you are responsible 
for the accuracy of the information you provide.

Subpart J--[Amended]

    3. The authority citation for subpart J of Part 404 continues to 
read as follows:

    Authority: Secs. 201(j), 204(f), 205(a), (b), (d)-(h), and (j), 
221, 223(i), 225, and 702(a)(5) of the Social Security Act (42 
U.S.C. 401(j), 404(f), 405(a), (b), (d)-(h), and (j), 421, 423(i), 
425, and 902(a)(5)); sec. 5, Pub. L. 97-455, 96 Stat. 2500 (42 
U.S.C. 405 note); secs. 5, 6(c)-(e), and 15, Pub. L. 98-460, 98 
Stat. 1802 (42 U.S.C. 421 note); sec. 202, Pub. L. 108-203, 118 
Stat. 509 (42 U.S.C. 902 note).

    4. Amend Sec.  404.901 by adding a definition in alphabetical order 
to read as follows:


Sec.  404.901  Definitions.

* * * * *
    Initial disability claim means:
    (1) An application for benefits that is based on whether you are 
disabled under title II of the Act, or
    (2) An application for supplemental security income payments that 
is based on whether you are disabled or blind under title XVI of the 
Act.
    (3) For purposes of this subpart, the term ``initial disability 
claim'' does not include a continuing disability review or an age-18 
redetermination.
* * * * *
    5. Amend Sec.  404.903 by revising paragraph (g) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  404.903  Administrative actions that are not initial 
determinations.

* * * * *
    (g) Refusing to recognize, disqualifying, or suspending a person, 
as defined in Sec.  404.1703, from acting as your representative in a 
proceeding before us (see Sec. Sec.  404.1705 and 404.1745);
* * * * *
    6. Amend Sec.  404.909 by revising the section heading and 
paragraphs (a) introductory text and (a)(2), and by removing the 
heading of paragraph (b), to read as follows:


Sec.  404.909  How to request reconsideration in claims other than 
those that involve a denial of an initial disability claim based on 
medical factors.

    (a) We will reconsider an initial determination, other than one 
that involves a denial of your initial disability claim based on 
medical factors (see Sec.  404.910), if you or any other party to the 
reconsideration files a written request--
* * * * *
    (2) At one of our offices, the Veterans Administration Regional 
Office in the Philippines, or an office of the Railroad Retirement 
Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry,

[[Page 51969]]

or at least five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 
1995.
* * * * *
    7. Add a new Sec.  404.910 to read as follows:


Sec.  404.910  How to request reconsideration in an initial disability 
claim that is denied based on medical factors.

    (a) If you file an initial disability claim, we will reconsider an 
initial determination that denies your claim based on medical factors 
if you or any other party to the reconsideration files a written 
request within 60 days after the date you receive notice of the initial 
determination and you make your request in accordance with paragraphs 
(b) or (c) (or within the extended time period if we extend the time as 
provided in paragraph (d)) of this section.
    (b) If you have not appointed a representative, or if your 
representative is not a professional representative, as defined in 
Sec.  404.1703, you may file your written request for reconsideration 
either through the electronic media we prescribe, at one of our 
offices, at the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the 
Philippines, or at an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you 
have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, or at least 
five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 1995.
    (c) If your representative is a professional representative, as 
defined in Sec.  404.1703, your professional representative must file 
your written request for reconsideration with us through the electronic 
media that we prescribe, unless we waive this requirement.
    (d) If you want a reconsideration of the initial determination that 
denies your initial disability claim based on medical factors, but do 
not request one in time, you may ask us for more time to request a 
reconsideration. Your request for an extension of time must be in 
writing and must give the reasons why the request for reconsideration 
was not filed within the stated time period. If you show us that you 
had good cause for missing the deadline, we will extend the time 
period. To determine whether good cause exists, we use the standards 
explained in Sec.  404.911. You must file the request for an extension 
of time according to the procedures in paragraphs (b) or (c) of this 
section.
    8. Amend Sec.  404.933 by revising the section heading and 
paragraphs (a) introductory text and (b)(2) to read as follows:


Sec.  404.933  How to request a hearing before an administrative law 
judge in claims other than those that involve a denial of an initial 
disability claim based on medical factors.

    (a) Written request. You may request a hearing on your claim, other 
than one that involves a denial of your initial disability claim based 
on medical factors (see Sec.  404.934), by filing a written request. 
You should include in your request--
* * * * *
    (b) * * *
    (2) At one of our offices, at the Veterans Administration Regional 
Office in the Philippines, or at an office of the Railroad Retirement 
Board if you have 10 or more years of service in the railroad industry, 
or at least five years of railroad service accruing after December 31, 
1995.
* * * * *
    9. Add a new Sec.  404.934 to read as follows:


Sec.  404.934  How to request a hearing before an administrative law 
judge in an initial disability claim that is denied based on medical 
factors.

    (a) If we deny your reconsidered initial disability claim based on 
medical factors, you may request a hearing by filing a written request. 
You should include in your request--
    (1) The name and social security number of the wage earner;
    (2) The reasons you disagree with the previous determination or 
decision;
    (3) A statement of additional evidence to be submitted and the date 
you will submit it; and
    (4) The name and address of any designated representative.
    (b) Your request for a hearing must be filed within 60 days after 
the date you receive notice of the previous determination or decision 
(or within the extended time period if we extend the time as provided 
in paragraph (e) of this section).
    (c) If you have not appointed a representative, or if your 
representative is not a professional representative, as defined in 
Sec.  404.1703, you may file your written request for a hearing either 
through the electronic media we prescribe, at one of our offices, at 
the Veterans Administration Regional Office in the Philippines, or at 
an office of the Railroad Retirement Board if you have 10 or more years 
of service in the railroad industry, or at least five years of railroad 
service accruing after December 31, 1995.
    (d) If your representative is a professional representative, as 
defined in Sec.  404.1703, your professional representative must file 
your written request for a hearing with us through the electronic media 
that we prescribe, unless we waive this requirement.
    (e) If you have a right to a hearing with respect to a 
determination or decision that denies your initial disability claim 
based on medical factors, but you do not request one in time, you may 
ask for more time to make your request. The request for an extension of 
time must be in writing and it must give the reasons why the request 
for a hearing was not filed within the stated time period. If you show 
that you had good cause for missing the deadline, we will extend the 
time period. To determine whether good cause exists, we use the 
standards explained in Sec.  404.911. You must file the request for an 
extension of time according to the procedures in paragraphs (b) or (c) 
of this section.

Subpart R--[Amended]

    10. The authority citation for subpart R of part 404 continues to 
read as follows:

    Authority: Secs. 205(a), 206, 702(a)(5), and 1127 of the Social 
Security Act (42 U.S.C. 405(a), 406, 902(a)(5), and 1320a-6); sec. 
303, Pub. L. 108-203, 118 Stat. 493.

    11. Amend Sec.  404.1700 by revising the introductory text and 
paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  404.1700  Introduction.

    You may appoint one or more individuals or entities to represent 
you in any of your dealings with us. This subpart explains, among other 
things--
    (a) Who may be your representative and what your representative's 
qualifications must be;
* * * * *
    12. Revise Sec.  404.1703 to read as follows:


Sec.  404.1703  Definitions.

    As used in this subpart--
    Access registration means supplying us with personal information 
that we use to identify you, your representative, or an individual 
working on behalf of your representative, to authenticate and authorize 
you, your representative, or an individual working on behalf of your 
representative to do business with us.
    Direct payment registration means supplying to us personal, 
financial institution, and business affiliation information that we use 
to authorize a representative under certain circumstances to receive 
direct payment of representative fees via electronic funds transfer.
    Disqualify refers to an action that prohibits a person from 
participating in or appearing before a Federal agency or Federal 
program, regardless of how long

[[Page 51970]]

the prohibition lasts or the specific terminology used.
    Electronic media means the electronic media that we prescribe for 
providing us information, registering with us, and filing with us 
certain applications, forms, and other documents.
    Entity means any business, firm, or other association, including 
but not limited to partnerships, corporations, for-profit 
organizations, and not-for-profit organizations.
    Federal agency refers to any authority of the Executive branch of 
the Government of the United States.
    Federal program refers to any program established by an Act of 
Congress or administered in whole or in part by a Federal agency.
    Fee petition means a written statement signed by the claimant's 
representative requesting the fee the representative wants to charge 
and collect for services the representative provided in pursuing the 
claimant's benefit rights in proceedings before us.
    Past-due benefits means the total amount of benefits under title II 
of the Act that has accumulated to all beneficiaries because of a 
favorable administrative or judicial determination or decision, up to 
but not including the month the determination or decision is made. For 
purposes of calculating fees for representation, we determine past-due 
benefits before any applicable reduction under section 1127 of the Act 
(for receipt of benefits for the same period under title XVI). Past-due 
benefits do not include:
    (1) Continued benefits paid pursuant to Sec.  404.1597a; or
    (2) Interim benefits paid pursuant to section 223(h) of the Act.
    Person means an individual or an entity.
    Principal representative means an attorney who meets all of the 
requirements of Sec.  404.1705(a), an individual other than an attorney 
who meets all of the requirements of Sec.  404.1705(b), or an entity 
that meets all of the requirements under Sec.  404.1705(b), who has 
been appointed to represent you in dealings with us and who is 
responsible for disseminating information and requests from us to you 
and your other representatives, if any.
    Professional representative means any attorney, any individual 
other than an attorney, or any entity that holds itself out to the 
public as providing representational services (see Sec.  404.1735) 
before us, regardless of whether the representative charges or collects 
a fee for providing the representational services.
    Representative means an attorney who meets all of the requirements 
of Sec.  404.1705(a), an individual other than an attorney who meets 
all of the requirements of Sec.  404.1705(b), or an entity that meets 
all of the requirements of Sec.  404.1705(b), whom you appoint to 
represent you in dealings with us. For purposes of Sec. Sec.  404.1740 
through 404.1799, the term representative also includes an attorney or 
a non-attorney whom you have not appointed as your representative under 
the previous sentence but who works for or on behalf of an appointed 
representative and helps represent you in your claim before us.
    We, our(s), or us refers to the Social Security Administration.
    You or your(s) refers to any individual claiming a right under the 
old-age, disability, dependents', or survivors' benefits program.
    13. Amend Sec.  404.1705 by removing the heading for paragraphs (a) 
and (b), revising paragraph (b) introductory text, and adding 
paragraphs (c) through (g) to read as follows:


Sec.  404.1705  Who may be your representative.

* * * * *
    (b) You may appoint any person who is not an attorney to be your 
representative in dealings with us if the person--
* * * * *
    (c) We may refuse to recognize your appointed representative if the 
representative does not meet our requirements. We will notify you and 
your appointed representative if we do not recognize your appointed 
representative.
    (d) You may appoint more than one representative to represent you 
at the same time.
    (e) You must have a principal representative. When you appoint only 
one representative, that representative is your principal 
representative. When you appoint more than one representative you must 
select one of your appointed representatives as your principal 
representative. Your principal representative is responsible for 
disseminating information and requests from us to you and your other 
representatives, if any, and for providing us information from you and 
about your claim. You may have only one principal representative at a 
time.
    (f) If at any point you are represented by more than one 
representative and you have not appointed or do not have a principal 
representative, we will name one of your appointed representatives as 
your principal representative. You may appoint a different principal 
representative than the one we name by filing the appropriate form.
    (g) Each of your representatives, as well as individuals working on 
their behalf, must complete access registration with us in the manner 
we prescribe.
    14. Revise Sec.  404.1707 to read as follows:


Sec.  404.1707  How you appoint and revoke the appointment of a 
representative.

    (a) You must use the version of the form we prescribe, electronic 
or paper, to appoint or revoke the appointment of a representative.
    (1) If your representative is not a professional representative, 
and your representative does not want to deal with us through the 
electronic media we prescribe, we will recognize your appointment of a 
representative if--
    (i) Both you and your representative sign the paper form we 
prescribe;
    (ii) You choose a principal representative on the form we prescribe 
at the time of the appointment; and
    (iii) You or your representative files the signed form with us at 
one of our offices if you have initially filed a claim or have 
requested reconsideration; with the hearing office if you have 
requested a hearing; or with the Appeals Council if you have requested 
a review of the administrative law judge's decision.
    (2) If your representative is a professional representative, or if 
your representative is not a professional representative but wants to 
do business with us through the electronic media we prescribe, we will 
recognize your appointment of a representative if--
    (i) Your representative electronically signs the form we prescribe, 
prints the electronically signed form, and you sign the printed copy of 
the form;
    (ii) You choose a principal representative on the form we prescribe 
at the time of the appointment; and
    (iii) Your representative files the electronic form in the manner 
we prescribe.
    (3) If we do not make the electronic form available or we prescribe 
that the electronic form is not required, then we will recognize your 
appointment of a professional representative according to the 
procedures in paragraph (a)(1) of this section.
    (b) Each time you change your principal representative, you must 
file a new version of the form we prescribe.
    (c) If at any point you are represented by more than one 
representative and you have not appointed or do not have a principal 
representative, we will name one of your appointed representatives as 
your principal representative. You may appoint a different principal 
representative than the one we name by filing the appropriate form.

[[Page 51971]]

    (d) You must file the form we prescribe with us to revoke the 
appointment of a representative. The date of the revocation is the date 
on which you file the form with us. We will notify you and your 
representative that you revoked your representative's appointment.
    15. Amend Sec.  404.1710 by revising paragraphs (a) introductory 
text and (b) and adding paragraph (c) to read as follows:


Sec.  404.1710  Authority of a representative.

    (a) Your representative may, on your behalf--
* * * * *
    (b) Your principal representative may also sign and file an 
application on your behalf for rights or benefits under title II of the 
Act, as described in Sec.  404.612(h).
    (c) If you appoint an entity as your representative, any document 
related to the claim that is signed by a registered employee of the 
entity is binding on that entity, even if the employee's association 
with the entity ends.
    16. Add a new Sec.  404.1712 to read as follows:


Sec.  404.1712  When the appointment of your representative begins and 
ends.

    (a) The appointment of your representative begins on the date that 
you and your representative sign the form we prescribe appointing your 
representative as described in Sec.  404.1707. However, we will not 
recognize your appointment of a representative or deal with your 
representative until you or your representative file(s) the signed form 
with us.
    (b) If your appointed representative is an individual, the 
individual's authority continues until the earliest of the following 
actions occur--
    (1) You file the prescribed form with us revoking the appointment 
of your representative;
    (2) Your representative files the prescribed form with us 
withdrawing as your representative;
    (3) We have made a final determination or decision on your claim 
and the claims of any auxiliary beneficiary, the period in which you or 
your representative could appeal our determination or decision has 
ended, and you or your representative, or the auxiliary beneficiary, if 
any, did not file an appeal before the end of that period;
    (4) Your representative files a fee petition requesting our 
authorization to charge and collect a fee (see Sec. Sec.  404.1720 and 
404.1725);
    (5) We have closed out any application that was started by you or 
on your behalf but was not pursued within the time period we prescribe;
    (6) We disqualify or suspend your representative; or
    (7) Your representative dies.
    (c) If your appointed representative is an entity, the entity's 
authority continues until the earliest of the following actions occur--
    (1) You file the prescribed form with us revoking the appointment 
of your representative;
    (2) Your representative files the prescribed form with us 
withdrawing as your representative.
    (3) We have made a final determination or decision on your claim 
and the claims of any auxiliary beneficiary, the period in which you or 
your representative could appeal our determination or decision has 
ended, and you or your representative, or the auxiliary beneficiary, if 
any, did not file an appeal before the end of that period;
    (4) Your representative files a fee petition requesting our 
authorization to charge and collect a fee (see Sec. Sec.  404.1720 and 
404.1725);
    (5) We have closed out any application that was started by you or 
on your behalf but was not pursued within the time period we prescribe;
    (6) We disqualify or suspend your representative;
    (7) The entity goes out of business; or
    (8) The entity changes ownership or changes the services it 
provides, such that it no longer represents claimants before us.
    (d) You may reappoint a representative by properly filing a new 
prescribed form with us in accordance with Sec. Sec.  404.1705 and 
404.1707.
    17. Add a new Sec.  404.1713 to read as follows:


Sec.  404.1713  Professional representatives.

    (a) Professional representatives must conduct business with us 
electronically at the times and in the manner that we prescribe.
    (b) Professional representatives, and individuals working on behalf 
of professional representatives on claims before us, must make certain 
attestations we require to ensure that each individual knows, 
understands, and will comply with our rules and regulations. Each of 
these individuals will make these attestations one time during the 
access registration process.
    18. Revise Sec.  404.1715 to read as follows:


Sec.  404.1715  Notice or request to a representative.

    (a) We will send to you, your principal representative, and your 
other representatives, if any, all notices relating to the appointment 
of any of your representatives and the revocation or withdrawal of an 
appointment of any of your representatives. Notices sent in accordance 
with Sec.  404.1730(c)(2)(i) will be sent to any representative who has 
not filed a written request for a fee in accordance with Sec.  
404.1730(c)(1).
    (b) We will send only to your principal representative--
    (1) Notices and copies of any administrative action, determination, 
or decision in your claim; and
    (2) Requests for information or evidence in your claim.
    (c) If your principal representative is an entity, we will send all 
notices, copies of any administrative action, determination, or 
decision in your claim, and requests for information to the individual 
who signed the appointment of representative form on behalf of the 
entity, until or unless the entity informs us of a different contact 
within the entity for this purpose.
    (d) Your principal representative is responsible for informing 
other appointed representatives, if any, about any notices, 
administrative actions, determinations, decisions, or requests for 
information or evidence that we send to the principal representative. 
We will not send copies of notices, any administrative actions, 
determinations, decisions, or requests for information or evidence to 
any representative, except your principal representative.
    (e) Any notice or request we send to your principal representative 
will have the same force and effect as if we sent it directly to you.
    19. Amend Sec.  404.1720 by revising paragraphs (a), (b)(1), 
(b)(3), (b)(4), (c) introductory text, (c)(3), the first two sentences 
of paragraph (d)(1), and the first sentence of paragraph (d)(2)(i) to 
read as follows:


Sec.  404.1720  Fee for a representative's services.

    (a) General. A representative may charge and receive a fee for 
providing you with services as a representative as provided in 
paragraph (b) of this section, or as provided in section 206(a)(2) of 
the Act.
    (b) Charging and receiving a fee under the fee petition process. 
(1) A representative must file a written fee petition with us before 
the representative may charge or receive a fee for providing you with 
services.
* * * * *
    (3) A representative must not charge or receive any fee unless we 
have approved it, and a representative must not charge or receive any 
fee that is more than the amount we approve.

[[Page 51972]]

    (4) If the representative is an attorney, a non-attorney who is 
eligible to participate in the direct payment demonstration project, as 
defined in Sec.  404.1717, or an entity that meets the requirements in 
Sec.  404.1730(f) and the claimant is entitled to past-due benefits, we 
will pay the authorized fee, or a part of the authorized fee, directly 
to the attorney, eligible non-attorney, or eligible entity out of the 
past-due benefits, subject to the limitations described in Sec.  
404.1730(b)(1). If the representative is not an attorney, eligible non-
attorney, or eligible entity, we assume no responsibility for the 
payment of any fee that we have authorized.
    (c) Notice of determination on the fee petition. We will mail to 
both you and your representative at your last known addresses a written 
notice of what we decide about the fee petition. We will state in the 
notice--
* * * * *
    (3) That we are not responsible for paying the fee, except when we 
may pay an attorney, a non-attorney who is eligible to participate in 
the direct payment demonstration project, as defined in Sec.  404.1717, 
or an entity that meets the requirements in Sec.  404.1730(f), from 
past-due benefits; and
* * * * *
    (d) Review of fee petition determination--(1) Request filed on 
time. We will review the decision we made about a fee petition if 
either you or your representative files a written request for the 
review through the electronic media we prescribe or at one of our 
offices within 30 days after the date of the notice of the fee 
determination. Either you or your representative, whoever requests the 
review, must mail a copy of the request to the other person. * * *
    (