SSA Issues POMS on Transgender Matters

Empire Justice July 15, 2015

Effective June 13, 2013, two new POMS sections announce SSA’s latest policies for serving transgender individuals.  POMS GN 00203.00 defines a transgender individual as an individual who has a gender identity that is different from the sex identified in his or her original birth certificate.

SSA’s policy as set forth in the POMS is to provide meaningful access to all of its programs, provide sensitive service to all individuals, and treat them with dignity and respect.  Section D reminds interviewers during and after any interaction with a transgender individual to be mindful to:

  • Protect the confidentiality of each individual;
  • Always treat the individual with dignity and respect;
  • Ask only questions that are necessary to complete the transaction;
  • When speaking to or calling a person, use the name and pronouns appropriate to the individual’s self-identified gender, even if the person has not changed his or her name or updated his or her records; and
  • Be aware that the individual’s gender transition is a personal matter and question and comment regarding a person’s medical treatment and appearance are inappropriate.

POMS RM 10212.200, entitled “Changing Numident Data for Reasons other than Name Change,” provides instructions for correcting, among other things, an individual’s sex field information.  Numident is SSA’s acronym for “Numeric Identification System,” which is a query displaying information taken from an individual’s application for an original SSN card and subsequent applications for replacement cards. See POMS GN 03325.025.

To request an update of information on a Numident record, an individual must submit an application for a replacement Social Security Number (SSN) or card; produce evidence of identity; and evidence to support the update.  The POMS section sets forth the evidence required for a change in the sex field.  The individual must present a valid U.S. passport with the new sex, an amended birth certificate with the new sex, a court order directing legal recognition of change of sex, OR medical certification of appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition signed by a licensed physician.  Requirements for the medical certification are spelled out in detail in the POMS section.  A sample physician letter is provided.

The POMS emphasize that surgery is no longer required to change the sex field on the Numident.  SSA will, however, accept an original or certified letter from a physician stating the individual has undergone sexual reassignment surgery as evidence to change the sex field when it meets the requirements in GN 00301.030 and contains sufficient biographical data (e.g., name, date of birth) to clearly identify the individual.

Finally, the POMS remind interviewers that an individual’s sex may impact eligibility for benefits dependent upon spousal relationships.