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Reimbursement Basics

Q1: What's a data month?

A1: The data month is the month you are claiming reimbursement for. For example, the January data month is January 1 - January 30. You can file for the January data month beginning on February 1.

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Q2: What's a snapshot?

A2: The day after a data month ends (i.e., the first day of the next month), NLAD takes a "snapshot" of all of the subscribers that are entered into NLAD. The snapshot is a record of exactly which subscribers are entered in NLAD at that time.

The subscribers included in the "snapshot" are the population that is eligible for reimbursement. The snapshot is also the list of subscribers that will populate on your Lifeline Claims System (LCS) claims input template. The snapshot report is available to view in NLAD as the "Summary and Detail Subscriber Snapshot Report."

NLAD takes the snapshot automatically at 6 AM ET on first of the month to represent the number of subscribers in the data month. For example, for the January data month, the snapshot occurs on February 1.

If a subscriber is not included in the snapshot, they are not eligible for reimbursement (and you cannot add them in a revision). Because of this, it's important to keep NLAD up-to-date (per the FCC's rules).

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Q3: Can I prorate my claim for a half month of service?

A3: No, you can only claim the full reimbursement amount or zero. For example, if a subscriber enrolls mid-way through the month, you will claim the full monthly amount on their first snapshot date. If the subscriber de-enrolls mid-way through the month, they will not be included on the next snapshot date and you will not claim reimbursement for their last partial month of service.

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Q4: When do I use the Lifeline Claims System (LCS) vs. FCC Form 497?

A4: Use the LCS to submit claims and revisions for the data months in 2018 and later. Use FCC Form 497 to submit claims and revisions for data months prior to 2018. FCC Form 497 is not available for data months in January 2018 (February 1 snapshot) and later.

Q5: Who should I list as the "contact person"?

A5: The contact person is whoever can answer questions about the specifics of the claims submitted. It does not need to be a company officer.

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Lifeline Claims System

Q6: What is new/different, and what's the same as the FCC Form 497 process?

A6: The Lifeline Claims System (LCS) will be available on February 1, 2018, to claim reimbursement for the January 2018 data month (February 1 snapshot).

First filing only: For your first filing, you'll need to enter the dollar amount claimed for each subscriber. In future months, the template will pre-populate with the claim amount entered from the previous month.

What's new: FCC Form 497 is retired, and all service providers must submit their reimbursement claims online using the LCS. Users will log in, download the month's claim template, add/edit the dollar amount for each subscriber, and provide reason codes for unclaimed subscribers. Then, upload the completed template and certify the submission. You cannot claim reimbursement for subscribers that are not in the monthly snapshot (and you cannot add them in a revision).

If there aren't any customers in NLAD for the month, you do not need to file in the LCS. However, if you do have subscribers in NLAD but are not claiming reimbursement for them, you should still submit a claim for $0.

What's the same: Users still need to take action to file and submit their reimbursement claim. There is an option to file monthly or quarterly. Users can still get reimbursed by the end of the month if they submit and certify the form by the 8th.

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Q7: How to access it?

A7: The Lifeline Claims System (LCS) is available through the National Lifeline Accountability Database (NLAD). Log into NLAD, then select "Claims" from the left-hand menu. LCS users must have "497 Officer" or "497 User" credentials in order to access the system.

For help with your entitlements, contact your company's Company Officer or General Contact or call (888) 641-8722.

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Q8: Where is the claims input template?

A8: The claims input template is inside the LCS system. Once you log in, there is a link - "Download a new filing template" - where you can download the template.

Q9: Subscribers are missing from my template/snapshot. How do I fix it?

A9: You can't. The template is based on your NLAD subscriber snapshot report, and there is no way to go back and change an "NLAD snapshot" once it is taken. You can only claim reimbursement for the subscribers that were included in the snapshot.

You can add the subscribers for next month’s snapshot. Add your subscribers to NLAD by the end of the month (snapshots are taken on the first day of the next month) to make sure they’re included in the next snapshot. Learn how in the NLAD video: enrolling a subscriber or NLAD video: uploading a subscriber file.

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Q10: For my Tribal subscribers, why is the system only letting me claim $9.25?

A10: If the LCS is only letting you claim $9.25 for Tribal subscribers, it probably means you did not use the "tribal flag" in NLAD when you enrolled the subscriber. You cannot claim the enhanced support amount ($25) unless a subscriber’s NLAD "tribal flag" is selected in NLAD at the time the snapshot is taken.
There is no way to go back and change an "NLAD snapshot" once it is taken. Unfortunately, that means that for the data month in question, you can only claim the standard $9.25 amount for subscribers who did not have the "Tribal flag" selected.
To prevent this from happening next month, update the Tribal subscribers’ NLAD records before the next snapshot is taken (do this by the end of the month; snapshots are taken on the first day of the next month). Follow these instructions:

  1. Log into NLAD, and select "Reports" from the left-hand menu
  2. Select the report, "Detail Active Subscriber Report" Video: Running Reports
  3. Review the report and take note of the subscribers that don’t have the "tribal flag" selected. Subscribers on Tribal lands receiving the enhanced benefit should be marked with a "1" in both the columns, "primaryTribalFlag" and "lifelineTribalBenefitFlag"
  4. Update the subscriber records one at a time by selecting "Update Subscriber" from the left-hand menu NLAD Video: Updating a Subscriber
    1. Select "Production" as the update type
    2. For each Tribal subscriber that is receiving enhanced Lifeline, update their NLAD record so the "Yes" button is selected for both "Tribal Address?" and "Lifeline Tribal Benefit?"
  5. Once you’re finished, pull the "Detail Active Subscriber Report" again to confirm that you’ve updated the Tribal fields for all of your Tribal Lifeline subscribers.

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Q11: Do I have to download and upload the sheet every month?

A11: Yes. For each data month, you need to download the claims template, add/edit the claims amounts, and re-upload the template.

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Q12: I got an error. What do I do?

A12: The LCS will reject a file entirely if there are any errors on it. Check the error file (link will be in the error message) to see what the errors are, then correct the errors and re-upload the entire sheet. The error file's name will be in the format mm_dd_yyy_hhmm_error.csv.

You can re-upload the corrected template right away. All errors must be corrected (and the certification complete) before USAC can process your reimbursement claim.

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Q13: What about NLAD opt-out states (California, Texas, and Oregon)?

A13: To submit a claim for an NLAD opt-out state, select the "opt out state" tab and complete your filing.

Each month, the LCS will provide a blank input template for opt-out states. To expedite your claims entry, USAC recommends that opt-out states begin their filing with the prior month's completed claims template and add/remove subscribers as needed, rather than starting with a blank template each month.

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FCC Form 497

Q15: When should I use FCC Form 497?

A16: Use FCC Form 497 to submit claims and revisions for data months prior to 2018. FCC Form 497 is not available for data months in January 2018 and later.

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Q16: How do I know if I have access to the online FCC Form 497?

A16: Existing E-File users should see the FCC Form 497 online form on his or her information center. Contact your Company Officer or General Contact to modify your entitlements if you do not see the FCC Form 497.

Officers and General Contacts should contact (888) 641-8722 and select the appropriate prompts to reach customer operations. Customer operations can help identify problems with your FCC Form 498 account. New users will need the Company Officer or General Contact to set up the appropriate entitlements.

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Q17: I get an error message when I try to log into E-File through the link on the website. How do I access the online FCC Form 497?

A17: Close your web browser and open a new browser. Cut and paste into the address bar.

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Q18: I don't remember my password. How can I get a new one?

A18: Only the Company Officer or General Contact listed on the FCC Form 498 can request a new password. Call the Customer Operations Department at (888) 641-8722 and select the appropriate prompts to reset your password over the phone.

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Q19: Can I submit an online FCC Form 497 for a new ETC or new service area (study area)?

A19: No. All new companies must submit their first FCC Form 497 by mail, fax, or email.

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Q20: Can I revise forms originally submitted offline?

A20: Yes. Carriers can revise any form that was submitted offline as long as it falls within the current administrative window. For example, you can use the online FCC Form 497 to submit original or revised forms for 2008 and 2009 data months.

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Q21: Do I need to re-enter all the data for a revised FCC Form 497?

A21: No. Only modify the data you wish to change. You will need to re-certify the form.

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Q22: I saved/certified my data but when I click "Exit to 497 Search" I receive the following message: "Any unsaved data will be lost. Are you sure you want to return to the Form 497 Search page?" Will I lose my data when I exit?

A22: You will not lose your data if you received a "save successful" message after you clicked "Save," or if you received a "Form 497 certified successfully" message after you clicked "certify."

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Q23: I successfully certified my data. Will I receive a confirmation email?

A23: No. You will receive a message on your screen that states: "Form 497 certified successfully." You may save a copy of this screen for your records.

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Q24: Can I enter more than one FCC Form 497 at a time (bulk upload)?

A24: Yes. You can use the bulk upload feature to upload multiple FCC Forms 497, however, you will need to certify each form individually. You can find the bulk upload template on the Lifeline Program Forms page. Templates should be saved as .xls files (EXCEL 97-2003). Other formats, including .xlsx (EXCEL 2007), will not upload.

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