B-229651.2, Mar 31, 1988, Office of General Counsel

B-229651.2: Mar 31, 1988

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MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS - Federal Administrative/Legislative Matters - Administrative Policies - Records Destruction - Time Restrictions DIGEST: Where 1-year retention period of inactive Supplemental Security Income Claims Folders previously approved by this Office is now deemed inadequate for audit purposes. It is appropriate for this Office to request extension of retention period to meet our audit requirements. B-229651.2- 0.M: This memorandum is in response to a note from Claudia Bradley. The 1-year retention period was set forth in item 2 of the Request for Records Disposition Authority (SF-115) approved by this Office by letter dated January 14. We note that the normal retention period for program records is 3 years.

B-229651.2, Mar 31, 1988, Office of General Counsel

MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS - Federal Administrative/Legislative Matters - Administrative Policies - Records Destruction - Time Restrictions DIGEST: Where 1-year retention period of inactive Supplemental Security Income Claims Folders previously approved by this Office is now deemed inadequate for audit purposes, it is appropriate for this Office to request extension of retention period to meet our audit requirements.

Approval of Request for Records Disposition Authority; Social Security Administration, Titles II and XVI Claims Material-- RM-88-4-- B-229651.2- 0.M:

This memorandum is in response to a note from Claudia Bradley, Manager, Records Analysis Branch, RMS, forwarding for our consideration and comment a memorandum to her from Barry Tice, Group Director, HRD/Disability, dated March 14, 1988, requesting that this Office reverse its prior approval of the 1-year destruction period of inactive Supplemental Security Income Claims Folders. The 1-year retention period was set forth in item 2 of the Request for Records Disposition Authority (SF-115) approved by this Office by letter dated January 14, 1988. Although HRD initially had no objection to the proposed retention period, it now believes the retention period interferes with audit needs. This being the case, we see no reason why we should not ask Social Security Administration (SSA) to extend the retention period. While we defer to HRD in identifying needs concerning any retention period it might propose, we note that the normal retention period for program records is 3 years. See GAO, Policy and Procedures Manual for Guidance of Federal Agencies, tit. 8, Sec. 10.2 (TS 8-6, Feb. 12, 1985).

While we may ask SSA to extend the retention period, it is unclear whether we could require the extended retention of these records under any of the statutes conferring such authority on this Office. These claims records are not within the scope of 44 U.S.C. Sec. 3309 (which precludes destruction of records pertaining to claims or demands against the government until settled by this Office) since they are not settled by this Office, but are finally settled by SSA when it denies them and the time for appeal of the denials has expired. Furthermore, the records relate to denied claims. Since no payments are made for denied claims, they would not be relevant to our account settlement function. For the same reason they do not appear to be financial records within the ambit of 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3523(c)(1) since which no payments have been made.

We also note that the SF-115 we previously approved states:

Claims are considered active if they are being adjudicated, are in the process of or are subject to appeal or litigation, or are in a payment or suspended payment status. Claims are inactive if they have been denied or terminated and all appeals periods have expired. Claims with unresolved overpayments are so coded and not selected by the case control system for destruction."

Since the SF-115 states that the SSI folders are not to be destroyed until 1 year after the date the inactive claim was denied or terminated, it seems that the folders will be retained for a sufficient time to protect the legal interests of the government. This is because as long as there is the potential for an appeal of the claim it cannot be considered inactive. Thus, the proposed retention period for SSI Claims Folders appear to be legally sufficient.

Finally, while there is a difference between the retention period specified for Retirement and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (title II) Claims Folders and the retention period specified for SSI Claims Folders, we should refrain from speculating as to SSA's reason for this, since there may be a valid reason for this difference. Thus, any request to revise the retention period for SSI Claims Folders to conform to the retention period for title II Claims Folders should merely suggest conformity in the absence of valid reason for distinguishing between the two.