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NYLAG Obtains FOIA Response About Social Security Policies for Beneficiaries with Limited English Proficiency 

Many recipients of federal benefits administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) have limited English proficiency. These recipients face barriers to accessing their full SSA benefits because of the concern that they will not be able to communicate with anyone at the Agency. SSA provides interpreters free of charge to individuals requesting language assistance or who demonstrate a need for language assistance.

In December 2023, the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for GN 00203.011, the section of SSA’s Program Operations Manual System (POMS) relating to SSA’s policies on providing language assistance to beneficiaries, which has not been made available to the public by SSA. In May 2024, SSA provided the document to NYLAG. This POMS section includes important information for SSA recipients and advocates, including the instructions issued to SSA employees on how to interview with the assistance of an interpreter; who can act as a qualified interpreter and translator; and when recipients with limited English proficiency have good cause for late filings. 

The full text of POMS GN 00203.011 is available here

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