I-2-0-2.Hearing Operation — In General

Last Update: 10/5/15 (Transmittal I-2-152)

A. Authority

As authorized in sections 205(b) and 1631(c) of the Social Security Act (Act), and as set forth in 20 CFR 404.929 and 416.1429, if a claimant is dissatisfied with one of the determinations or decisions listed in 20 CFR 404.930 or 416.1430, he or she may request a hearing. The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) has delegated the authority to hold hearings and issue decisions to administrative law judges (ALJ).

As set forth in 20 CFR 422.203 and 408.1040, ALJs in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) review and decide appealed determinations of claims for:

  • Retirement, survivor, disability, and statutory blindness benefits under title II of the Act;

  • Special benefits for certain World War II veterans under title VIII of the Act;

  • Supplemental security income payments for the aged, blind, and disabled under title XVI of the Act; and

  • Initial and continuing entitlement to health insurance benefits for the aged and disabled under title XVIII of the Act.

The regulations explaining how SSA will conduct hearing proceedings are set forth in 20 CFR 404.929-404.961 and 416.1429-416.1461. See also 20 CFR 422.203.


In Region I (Boston Region), different rules apply at the hearing level. These rules are set forth in 20 CFR 405.301-405.383.

B. General Organization of the Hearing Operation

ODAR's Deputy Commissioner oversees all ODAR operations, including both the hearing and Appeals Council levels of administrative review. (For more information about the Appeals Council, see Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-3-0.) ODAR's Deputy Commissioner delegated the authority for direct management of the hearing operation to the Chief Administrative Law Judge.

The hearing operation consists of a nationwide network of regional offices, hearing offices (HO), National Hearing Centers (NHC), and Case Assistance Centers (CAC). The Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (OCALJ) is responsible for designating the geographic area that each regional office and HO serves, and evaluating workload demands to determine whether the assistance of an NHC or CAC is needed in any particular region or HO service area. (For more information about case transfers to NHCs, see generally HALLEX I-2-1-58.) An interactive map of hearing office regional jurisdictions and hearing office locations can be found on SSA's website.

OCALJ delegated the authority for handling management issues for individual hearing offices in a region's service area to Regional Chief Administrative Law Judges. OCALJ also delegated the authority to assign ALJs to hold hearings, issue decisions or orders, and take other appropriate actions to resolve disputed issues in individual hearing offices to Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judges.