TN 1 (04-12)
NL 01001.010 Special Notice Options Policy for the Blind or Visually Impaired
A. Who can request a special notice option?
Title II and title XVI applicants, beneficiaries, recipients, and representative payees who are blind or visually impaired may request a special notice option. Other people who meet the definition of proper applicant or first party reporter may also request a special notice option on behalf of title II and title XVI applicants, beneficiaries, and recipients who are blind or visually impaired.
GN 00204.003 Proper Applicant
GN 03001.012 Title II Due Process Requirements for Determining the Identity of A Person Making a First or Third Party Report
GN 02605.001 Change of Address (COA) in Person, by Telephone, in Writing, or on the Internet
SI 02301.010 How to Act on Reports
Organizational representative payees are not eligible for special notice options.
B. Do we require proof of blindness or visual impairment for the person to receive a special notice option?
We accept the person’s allegation of blindness or visual impairment for providing a special notice option for the blind or visually impaired.
C. Is a blind or visually impaired person required to select a special notice option?
A blind or visually impaired person is not required to choose a special notice option. If someone does not elect a special notice option, he or she receives a standard print notice by first-class mail.
NOTE: If a person does not select a special notice option, you do not need to document the file or complete the iSNO application.
D. What special notice options are available?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) automatically approves requests for these formats:
standard print notice by certified mail;
standard print notice by first-class mail and a follow-up telephone call to read the notice within 5 business days from the date of the notice;
Braille notice and a standard print notice by first-class mail;
data compact disc (CD) in Microsoft Word format and a standard print notice by first-class mail.
NOTE: The data CD requires a computer with software that can open Microsoft Word files;
large print notice (18 point font) and a standard print notice by first-class mail; or
audio compact disc (CD) and a standard print notice by first-class mail.
E. Are any other special notice accommodations available?
Title II and title XVI applicants, beneficiaries, recipients, and representative payees who are blind or visually impaired may request an “alternative” accommodation under a Section 504 regulation, 45 CFR 85.51.
SSA’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) decides whether to approve these requests on a case-by-case basis using criteria in 45 CFR Part 85.
For further information on handling requests for “other” special notice accommodations, see Procedure for Request for Other Special Notice Accommodations for the Blind or Visually Impaired NL 01001.300.
F. What happens if there is a change in the type of benefit a person receives?
When someone selects a special notice option, the option remains the same when the person’s type of benefit changes, e.g., from disability to retirement benefits at full retirement age, or from survivors to retirement.
G. What happens if benefits stop and are later reinstated?
When someone selects a special notice option, the option remains the same when benefits stop and are later reinstated. Suspension or termination of benefits has no impact on a special notice option. If a person reestablishes eligibility for benefits, the previously selected special notice option still applies.
H. How can someone contact SSA to request a special notice option?
To request a special notice option, a person may:
Visit the SSA website at www.socialsecurity.gov/notices to make an online request;
Call the SSA national toll-free number 1-800-772-1213;
Call the SSA national toll-free TTY number 1-800-325-0778 for people who are deaf or hard of hearing;
Write, call, or visit the local Social Security field office (FO);
Contact the Disability Determination Services (DDS), Disability Processing Branch (DPB), Disability Processing Unit (DPU), Office of Medical and Vocational Evaluation (OMVE), Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) hearing office, or the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) in ODAR; or
If living outside the U.S., write, call, or visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate Office.
I. Can someone change a special notice option?
A person may change his or her special notice option at any time. However, due to systems limitations, the public can change a special notice option only once per day using the Internet iSNO application.
NOTE: SSA employees can change a special notice option at any time (i.e., more than once per day) using the Intranet iSNO application.
J. When do we offer the special notice options?
We offer the special notice options to any title II and title XVI applicant, beneficiary, recipient, or representative payee who is blind or visually impaired, or tells us he or she needs assistance because of a visual impairment during:
all initial application interviews;
all title XVI redetermination interviews; and
any post-eligibility interview if the person alleges difficulty reading standard print notices.
We also offer the special notice options anytime we notice that a person might benefit from them.
The DDS, DPB, DPU, OMVE, and ODAR offer the special notice options during developmental contacts if the person alleges a visual impairment that was not previously alleged.
K. Are the special notice options available for DDS notices?
Yes, the special notice options are available for DDS notices.
L. How are notices with special notice options dated?
Both notices display the same notice date because the alternate format notice contains the same text as the standard print notice. We post-date the notices to allow vendors time to prepare and mail the notices. The amount of time for the vendors varies depending on the type of notice (i.e. a due process notice may have a shorter timeframe than an informational notice).
In addition, both the standard print and the special notice option vendors must adhere to the same timeframe for preparing and mailing the notice. This ensures that both notices are mailed at approximately the same time.
NOTE: Do not hold post-dated manually prepared notices until the date of the notice. Mail them immediately.
EXCEPTION: DDS notices display the notice preparation date instead of a post-date because the vendor has a one-business day turnaround time for mailing the notices.
M. When can we take an adverse action in a special notice option situation?
In a special notice option situation, when we can take an adverse action depends on which of the following special notice options applies:
For the certified mail special notice option, we can take an adverse action based on the standard print notice;
For the follow-up telephone call special notice option, we can take an adverse action based on the timeframe specified in the standard print notice after (a) we have completed the follow-up telephone call, or (b) we have made three unsuccessful attempts to reach the person by telephone. See Procedure for First-class Mail and a Follow-up Telephone Call Special Notice Option for the Blind or Visually Impaired NL 01001.110. The adverse action is not based on the date of the telephone contact(s); or
When a person selects a Braille, data CD, large print, or audio CD special notice option, we can take the adverse action based on the timeframe specified in the alternate format notice. We cannot take an adverse action based solely on the standard print notice.
N. Is the text in the alternate format notice and the standard print notice the same?
Yes, the alternate format notice contains the same text as the standard print notice. In addition, we must also send in the alternate format any enclosed pamphlets or forms that we send with the standard print notice.
O. Do we send return envelopes with alternate format notices?
No, we send return envelopes only with standard print notices.
P. How do we return documents to a person who receives alternate format notices?
We return document(s) submitted to us (e.g., birth certificate, W-2 form) with the standard print notice. The alternate format notice contains a paragraph explaining that we are returning the document(s) with the standard print notice.
Q. How do we store notices when an alternate format is involved?
We store only the standard print version of the notice in the Online Retrieval System (ORS), eView, Non-Disability Repository for Evidentiary Documents (NDRED) or Centralized Special Notice Option (CSNO). You cannot view the alternate formats electronically.
R. How do I handle a one-time request for an alternate format of a Title II or XVI form or notice enclosure that is not currently available in alternate formats?
Some of the title II or title XVI forms and enclosures are not currently available in automatically approved special notice option (SNO) formats. If a person with a SNO asks you to provide one of these title II or title XVI documents in his or her current SNO format, offer to read the document to the person, assist the person with completing any form, and answer any questions he or she may have. If the person continues to request the document in his or her SNO format, refer the request to your supervisor. Your supervisor will contact the Regional Special Notice Option Coordinator via email, providing the Coordinator with the following information:
the person’s name, mailing address, telephone number, and Social Security number (SSN),
the person’s SNO format, and
a copy of the standard print document or an explanation of how to retrieve it electronically
Explain to the person that we are committed to providing effective communication. We will look into the issue, and either contact him or her with a response or provide the document in his or her SNO format. Also, be sure to explain to the person that if he or she does not hear from us in 15 days, he or she can follow-up by calling or visiting the local field office.
If the person contacts us because he or she did not receive a response within 15 days, ask your supervisor to send a follow-up request to the Regional Special Notice Option Coordinator. Include the person’s name, SSN, and the date of the original request.
You can find out which notice enclosures are currently available in automatically approved formats by viewing the Global Reference Table.
NOTE: If the person requests a title II or title XVI document in a format other than one of the automatically approved formats, or a non-title II or title XVI document, process the request following the instructions for other special notice accommodations in NL 01001.300.
S. What should I do if I am unable to resolve an inquiry related to communicating with the blind or visually impaired?
If you cannot resolve an issue, make sure you understand exactly what the person needs. Explain to the person that the agency is committed to providing effective communication, that we will look into the issue, and that we will contact him or her with a response. Then, contact your Regional Special Notice Option Coordinator for guidance. For example, if a person wants his or her medical records in Braille, contact your Special Notice Option Coordinator.