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On Thursday, March 10, 2011, the Social Security Administration (SSA) held a meeting of its National Public Affairs Team at the International Trade Commission Building in Washington, D.C. to discuss SSA’s efforts to make applying for social security benefits more accessible to the Spanish-speaking population. Representatives from 16 interested agencies and organizations, including the National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives (NOSSCR)., were invited to attend this meeting where the SSA revealed and requested comments on its plan to create website pages in Spanish, including the disability application forms which could also be completed in Spanish.

On behalf of NOSSCR, I supported SSA’s efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community and to make the application process more accessible to those who speak Spanish. However, I raised one major concern: I think it is imperative that the electronic/master file be kept in English so that representatives and social security personnel who may only speak English can read the file without the necessity of a translator. I am pleased to report that SSA assured me that the Administration would keep the electronic/master file in English. However, I think this is an issue which we need to follow closely.

In order to keep the electronic/master file in English, SSA must translate application forms that are submitted in Spanish into English. That raises two additional concerns: (1) SSA must have the funds available to hire personnel to accomplish the translation of these applications from Spanish to English, and (2) SSA should be aware that errors in translation may become issues raised in appeals from denial decisions.

SSA’s plan to have its website, including disability application forms, available in Spanish is a work-in-progress. We were advised that nothing has been finalized. NOSSCR is interested in getting feedback from its membership on this plan. Please let NOSSCR know your thoughts on the important Spanish-language additions to the SSA website that are under consideration.

Send your comments to Elliott Andalman, Esq., Andalman & Flynn, 8601 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring MD 20910, or via email at eandalman@andalmanflynn.com.