Last Update: 12/1/10 (Transmittal I-1-60)
42 U.S.C. § 1306 (Social Security Act)
5 U.S.C. § 552 (Freedom of Information Act)
5 U.S.C. § 552a (Privacy Act)
20 CFR Part 401 (SSA Regulations - Disclosure of Official Records and Information)
20 CFR Part 402 (SSA Regulations - Availability of Information and Records to the Public)
See Also: 42 U.S.C. §§ 602 & 1320b-7 (Aid to Families with Dependent Children); 42 U.S.C. § 1202 (Aid to Blind); 42 U.S.C. § 1352 (Aid to Disabled); 42 U.S.C. § 615 and 8 U.S.C. § 1360 (Aliens); 42 U.S.C. §§ 653 & 663 (Parent Locator Service); 42 U.S.C. §§ 405 and 408(a)(7) & (8) (Social Security Numbers); 26 U.S.C. §§ 6103 and 6109 (Tax Return Information); 7 U.S.C. § 2025 (Food Stamp Programs).
The Social Security Administration (SSA) handles requests for disclosure of information in accordance with the Social Security Act, the Privacy Act, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and other applicable Federal statutes such as section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Some laws require disclosure while others require us to withhold information. For example, section 1106 of the Social Security Act prohibits disclosure of any files, records, or information obtained by an SSA employee in the course of his or her duties, or obtained by any person from an SSA employee, except pursuant to regulations prescribed by the Commissioner of Social Security or otherwise required by Federal law. Other provisions of the Social Security Act require disclosure of information for program purposes. These include disclosures to the Office of the Inspector General and the Parent Locator Service in the Office of Child Support Enforcement. Other Federal laws require disclosure of certain information to other agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (20 CFR 404.120).
If no law specifically requires or prohibits the disclosure sought in a particular request for information, SSA will handle the request in accordance with FOIA and the Privacy Act.
The basic purpose of FOIA is to open agency action to the light of public scrutiny by providing, upon request, information regarding an agency's performance of its statutory duties. FOIA generally provides that any person has a right of access to Federal agency records, except to the extent that such records are protected from disclosure by one of the statutory exemptions (20 CFR 402.75 - .110).
If FOIA does not require disclosure because one of the exemptions applies, SSA has the discretion to disclose information to the public if both the Privacy Act and section 1106 of the Social Security Act permit disclosure. In order to ensure openness and transparency in government, we must apply a presumption in favor of disclosure when responding to FOIA requests.