Last Update: 9/14/05 (Transmittal I-1-56)
The Office of Program Law (OPL) in the Office of the General Counsel (or other component as decided on an individual class action case basis) is responsible for coordinating all implementation-related actions, which include developing instructions and notice language, resolving class membership disputes and requesting and maintaining systems data to be used in preparing implementation reports to the court. OPL or other designated component provides the SSA systems components with the information necessary to identify potential class members. As part of the implementation of a class action court case, the responsible component, in conjunction with the Office of Earnings, Enumeration and Administrative Systems (OEEAS), uses the Civil Action Tracking System (CATS) and arranges for the printing of notices to potential class members, tracks responders, produces alerts, captures decisional data and produces management information reports, among other activities. (In cases involving allegations of Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) bias, some of the functions referenced above are performed by OGC and some of the functions are performed by OHA, as determined on a case by case basis.)
OPL (or other component as decided on an individual class action case basis) is responsible for monitoring the implementation of class action court orders and, depending on the particular court order or settlement agreement, may have various other responsibilities, including reviewing SSA's findings regarding class membership screening. OGC is responsible for providing legal advice and performing legal reviews of all matters related to the implementation of the class action, e.g., Agency instructions for implementing class actions. OGC is also responsible for communicating on behalf of SSA with class counsel and DOJ.
Within OHA, the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (OCALJ) or the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO), depending on the focus of the impact of the class action, and with coordination by OPPE, prepares the instructions necessary for OHA to implement class action court orders. Normally, these instructions take the form of a Temporary Instruction (TI) that appears in Volume I, Division 5. OHA instructions must be fully consistent with and responsive to court orders, as well as with instructions for other SSA components. Affected SSA components may discuss implementation concerns through conference calls arranged by OPL. In addition, OCALJ, OAO or OPPE may arrange a meeting of affected OHA components to discuss implementation concerns and may prepare an implementation plan in consultation with the affected OHA components. In class action cases involving allegations of ALJ bias, because the first level of readjudication is generally at the hearing level, OCALJ, with the assistance of OPPE, may also draft the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) instructions for the Agency. The OHA Class Action Coordinator (who is located in OAO) serves as a focal point in OHA for operating component questions concerning implementation of any court order involving a class action.
OAO and the individual hearing offices (HOs) may have major roles in effectuating implementation. The OHA Class Action Coordinator is responsible for controlling and reconciling the OHA case alert workload (see I-1-7-11 A.). The OAO branches and the HOs have both class membership screening responsibilities (see I-1-7-11 A.) and readjudication responsibilities (see I-1-7-12). Additionally, the OHA Regional Offices (ROs) and other OHA Headquarters components provide support for various implementation activities.
Because most class actions involve disability issues, the Office of Central Operations (OCO) provides primary support for operations such as scanning responses to notices, retrieving claim files, and associating the claim files with respective alerts. In most cases, OCO also provides support for the screening of cases for class membership and on occasion for the reajudication of cases. The Disability Determination Services (DDSs) also screen for class membership in some court cases. The Office of Disability Programs (ODP) prepares the POMS instructions for the DDSs, the field offices (FOs), the program service centers (PSCs), and the Teleservice Centers (TSCs) in disability-related class actions that do not involve ALJ bias. ODP may also develop training materials in disability cases, if necessary. The Office of Income Security Programs prepares instructions and training in conjunction with cases involving non-disability cases. The Office of Public Service and Operations Support (OPSOS) coordinates any FO and PSC responsibilities. Reconstruction of lost claim files is handled by OCO, the other PSCs, and the FOs.