I-1-3-4.Investigating OIG Referrals
Last Update: 6/27/05 (Transmittal I-1-54)
A. Referrals from the OIG Hotline
OIG receives allegations regarding misconduct, fraud and other criminal violations through its Hotline. In some cases, after reviewing an allegation, OIG determines that the matter should be handled administratively, so it forwards the referral electronically to the proper SSA component. For OHA, OIG sends these referrals to the Office of the Executive Secretariat (ES) in the Office of the Associate Commissioner. On receipt, the ES advises the ODISP Executive Officer of the referral, evaluates and prioritizes the referral and decides which OHA component has responsibility for initiating the investigation.
Notification of the final disposition of the allegation should be returned to the OIG Allegation Management Division within 90 days of receipt via the OIG, Allegation Management Division - Response Attachment (see I-1-3-91).
Unless otherwise noted, referrals from OIG are allegations and do not automatically carry any implied credibility. It is OHA's responsibility to promptly investigate the allegation, determine its validity and pursue an appropriate course of action. If OHA uncovers fraud or a criminal violation during its investigation, it should send the matter directly to an OIG Office of Investigation Field Division (OIG OI FD) and take no further action until notified by OIG that the administrative investigation can continue. (See I-1-3-90 for a list of OIG OI FDs.) The OIG OI FD will make a determination whether or not to open an investigation or return the matter to OHA.
1. Hotline Referrals to OCALJ
The vast majority of the Hotline referrals involve issues related to Hearing Offices (HOs) nationwide and therefore ES will send the Hotline referral to OCALJ for tracking, monitoring and referral to the appropriate RO and HO.
ES sends all OHA field referrals to the Attorney-Advisor to the Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ) for coordination with the CALJ, the Deputy CALJ and Field Management Officer, as necessary. If the Hotline referral involves an allegation of ALJ bias, the Attorney-Advisor forwards the referral to OCALJ's Division of Field Practices and Procedures (DFPP). In handling the allegation, DFPP follows SSA's Procedures Concerning Allegations of Bias or Misconduct by Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) (57 FR 49186, Oct. 30, 1992) and the “Directive to OHA Personnel Concerning Interim Responsibilities and Procedures for Handling Complaints of Bias or Misconduct on the Part of Administrative Law Judges” (issued January 1993).
For Hotline referrals that do not involve allegations of ALJ bias, the Attorney-Advisor sends the allegation by e-mail to the appropriate RO and monitors the referral until it is closed. Within one week of receiving the Hotline referral, the RO must inform the Attorney- Advisor of the name of the individual who will be the point of contact for handling the referral (i.e., the Regional Management Officer, the Regional Attorney, etc.) and whether the RO or a HO will be investigating the referral. Within 60 days of receiving the Hotline referral, the point of contact must provide the Attorney-Advisor with a report concerning the results of the investigation. Following any necessary coordination with OCALJ management, if the report adequately addresses all the issues, the Attorney-Advisor will forward the report and completed OIG, Allegation Management Division - Response Attachment (See I-1-3-91) to the ES. The ES will retain the report and forward to OIG, the completed OIG, Allegation Management Division - Response Attachment. (See I-1-3-91 for a copy of the Response Attachment.). If the report provided to the Attorney-Advisor does not address all issues raised by the Hotline referrals, OCALJ will discuss with the appropriate field office the additional information required. Once the report is finalized, the Attorney-Advisor will forward the report to ES along with the completed OIG, Allegation Management Division - Response Attachment. (See I-1-3-91 for a copy of the Response Attachment.). ES will retain the report and forward to OIG, the completed OIG, Allegation Management Division - Response Attachment within 90 days of receipt of the Hotline referral.
2. Referrals to OHA Headquarters Components Other than OCALJ
The ES will forward Hotline referrals involving the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO), the Office of Management (OM) or the Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation (OPPE) to the appropriate component head for necessary action. The component then follows the procedures outlined below in I-1-3-4 A.4. for investigating the allegations (except that the component will forward its final report directly to the Director, ES within 60 days of receiving the referral).
3. Referrals Related to Representatives
Referrals that relate to representatives who appear before SSA are handled by the Office of General Law (OGL) in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC), Representative Conduct and Civil Rights Division pursuant to I-1-1-50. If an OHA component receives such a referral, the component should fully develop the OIG referral, as described in I-1-3-4 A.4. below before sending the referral to OGL. A copy of the results of the investigation will be forwarded directly to the Director, ES within 60 days of receiving the referral and a copy should be sent to OGL. OGL will then consider whether to file a complaint against the representative, issue a warning letter, or close the matter for representative sanction purposes.
4. Procedures to Follow for Investigating Referrals
The following procedures should be followed when investigating all OIG referrals.
Review the complaint and any supporting documentation.
Do not hold a complaint until the subject of the complaint has retired or left SSA and then close it out without an investigation.
Identify each specific allegation raised by the complainant in the Hotline referral.
For each allegation identified, determine what needs to be done to establish whether the allegation is true or false. This may require reviewing HO administrative records, such as time and attendance records, leave slips, personnel files, medical and vocational expert records, and the computer systems used to track cases in the HO and the Agency-wide case tracking systems.
In some instances, review of documentary information will not be sufficient. In such cases, it is necessary to speak with the employee who is the subject of the complaint, the employee's supervisor, or other individuals who might have relevant information relating to the matter at issue.
Some union contracts state that in noncriminal matters that may result in an adverse determination about an employee's rights, benefits or privileges, the Privacy Act requires that, to the extent practicable, information must be initially collected directly from the subject employee.
Address all union issues. A bargaining unit employee has the right to have a union representative present when being questioned if the employee believes that an adverse action could result.
Determine whether the allegation is substantiated. If the allegation is substantiated, contact the appropriate management official(s) for a decision as to what action, if any, should be taken in response to the substantiated allegation.
In some instances, an allegation may involve a concern about a system or a process. If the allegation involves an office policy or procedure, review the policy, determine if it is being complied with, and determine if the policy needs to be modified. Gather enough information in order to make a determination that can be justified.
Prepare a report. The report should identify each specific allegation, the steps taken to review the allegation, including the materials that were reviewed and the individuals who were interviewed. The report should state whether the allegation(s) has been substantiated and if the allegation is substantiated, any administrative action that has been taken as a result of the investigation. If the investigation reveals that any changes are necessary, describe the plan you will use to implement the changes. Justify any conclusions that you reach.
The RO point of contact will forward the report to the Attorney-Advisor to the CALJ. (If a component other than OCALJ is involved, forward the report directly to the ES along with a completed OIG, Allegation Management Division - Response Attachment.) In addition, the RO point of contact will complete the OIG, Allegation Management Division - Response Attachment by checking the appropriate disposition response including any monetary amounts, sign and date the form and forward it to the Attorney-Advisor to the CALJ. (See I-1-3-91 for a copy of the Response Attachment.)
The report and completed OIG, Response Attachment must be sent to the Attorney-Advisor (or ES Director) within 60 days of receiving the initial e-mail message containing the referral. If you are unable to complete your action in this time period, discuss the circumstances with the Attorney-Advisor (or the ES Director if a component other than OCALJ is involved).
B. When OIG Sends Referrals Directly to OHA Field or Headquarters Components
If an OHA office receives a referral directly from OIG and there is no indication that OIG has also forwarded a copy to the Director, ES, promptly send a copy to the address below.Director, Office of the Executive Secretariat
Office of Hearings and Appeals
5107 Leesburg Pike, Room 1603
Falls Church, VA 22041-3255
Phone: (703) 605-8210
Fax: (703) 605-8211
¦¦¦ S3GA1 ES
If an OHA field component receives a direct referral, in addition to copying the ES, also forward a copy to the Attorney-Advisor to the CALJ at the address below.Attorney-Advisor to the CALJ
Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge
5107 Leesburg Pike, Room 1500
Falls Church, VA 22041-3255
Phone: (703) 605-8500
Fax: (703) 605-8501
¦¦¦ S3GJ OCALJ
Follow the procedures outlined in I-1-3-4 A.3. for reviewing the allegation(s) and responding to the referral.