SSA logo: link to Social Security Online home117. Information Required by Law to be Made Available to the Public

117.1 What laws require SSA to release information?

We are required, along with all Federal agencies, to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. These laws control the type and scope of information that may be released and to whom it may be released.

117.2 What information is made available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act makes the following types of information available to the public:

  1. Statement of organization;

  2. Administrative procedures;

  3. Policies;

  4. Interpretations of law; and

  5. Precedent decisions that affect the public.

The type of information above is available unless it falls within one of the law's specific exceptions. Generally, information on your earnings may be disclosed only to you, or for purposes of administering Social Security programs. Revealing earnings information is generally governed by Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended (26 U.S.C. 6103).

117.3 When can additional information be made available under the Freedom of Information Act?

Under the Freedom of Information Act, information about your Social Security record, other than items (A) - (E) above, may not be revealed to “the public” without your permission. “The public” generally includes any requester other than a Federal agency or a Federal State, or local court.

Additional information is only made available if the requesting party can demonstrate that revealing information would shed light on how the Federal Government operates to a degree that outweighs your rights and expectations of privacy.

117.4 What information is made available to the public under the Privacy Act?

The Privacy Act requires Federal agencies to publish notices of systems of records they maintain that contain personal information about individuals. This information is published in the Federal Register. Under the Privacy Act, information about you is generally not disclosed without your permission, except as provided by that law.

117.5 Can you access information maintained under the Privacy Act?

You have the right to gain access to information pertaining to you. You may have a copy made of your own record, request a correction to your record, or amend your record. There are special procedures for accessing medical records. Direct your request for information from these systems of records to the local Social Security office or the manager of the pertinent system of records. There is generally no charge to obtain information contained in your file.

117.6 What are Informational Facilities?

We have “Informational Facilities” that contain various legal publications, informational publications about us, and several manuals of instructions used in processing Social Security and SSI claims. This information is available to the public.

117.7 What type of information can you access at Informational Facilities?

The following is a partial list of the materials available to you at our Informational Facilities:

  1. Compilation of the Social Security Laws;

  2. Social Security Administration Regulations Nos. 1, 4, 10, 16, and 22;

  3. Social Security Rulings;

  4. Acquiescence Rulings;

  5. Program Operations Manual System;

  6. Social Security Handbook;

  7. Handbook for State Social Security Administrators;

  8. Part A Intermediary Manual;

  9. Medicare Carrier's Manual;

  10. Hearing Appeals and Litigations Manual; and

  11. Hospital Manual.

Our case decisions that set precedence, policy interpretations of the law, and regulations are published as Social Security Rulings. The Social Security Regulations contain the rules and policies of general applicability used in administering the Social Security Act.

117.8 Is there a charge for using information provided by the Informational Facilities?

Generally, there is no charge for information needed for program purposes. If information is provided for non-program purposes, a charge is made, subject to some exceptions.

Last Revised: Apr. 18, 2006