I-2-1-55.Assignment of Service Area Cases to Administrative Law Judges
Last Update: 2/12/09 (Transmittal I-2-73)
When the hearing office (HO) receives a valid RH or an Appeals Council remand and completes the procedures set forth in I-2-0 ff, Initial Processing of a Request for Hearing, the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge (HOCALJ), acting as the Associate Commissioner's “delegate,” shall assign the case to an ALJ.
A. Master Docket
HOs maintain a “master docket” which lists all RHs and remands received. The HOCALJ generally assigns cases to ALJs from the master docket on a rotational basis, with the earliest (i.e., oldest) RHs receiving priority, unless there is a special situation which requires a change in the order in which a case is assigned. (See I-2-1-55 D.)
B. HO and Remote Hearing Sites
The Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge (RCALJ) determines which areas within an HO's service area are to be served from the HO and which are to be served from a remote hearing site(s). In making such determinations, the RCALJ considers recommendations from the HOCALJ. Such areas may require modification periodically based on case receipts and other service and cost factors.
C. Case Assignments Requiring Travel Within the Hearing Office Service Area
1. Rotate Assignments
Generally, the HOCALJ will rotate the assignments requiring travel among all ALJs in the HO consistent with the objective of scheduling older cases first.
2. Travel Dockets
ALJs will generally accumulate a docket of cases to be heard at the remote site so as to minimize administrative travel and related costs. If a remote site has videoconferencing availability, ALJs are encouraged to hold hearings by videoconference technology by following the procedures set forth in I-5-1-16, Video Teleconferencing Procedures. The use of such technology does not necessarily require the ALJ to accumulate a docket of cases that would be required for travel to the remote site since the necessity of travel by the ALJ would be minimized.
3. Advance Administrative Approval for Travel
An ALJ must obtain advance administrative approval of proposed travel. The procedure for securing approval will vary from region to region, depending upon the specific methods prescribed by the RCALJ.
D. Special Situations Which Require a Change in the Order in Which Cases are Assigned
1. Critical Case Designation
This is a case which involves a “critical” (including Terminal Illness (TERI), Military Service Casualty Case (MSCC), and Compassionate Allowance (CAL)) situations. Flag and assign the case immediately. (See I-2-1-40, Critical Cases.)
2. Time-limited court remand case
This is a case in which the court has ordered the Commissioner to complete a specific action(s) within a set period of time. Flag and assign the case immediately.
3. Section 8001 case
In these cases, the Appeals Council has assumed jurisdiction on its own motion of an ALJ's favorable disability decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. If certain times are not (or have not been) met, the Social Security Administration must pay interim benefits to the claimant until the proceedings on remand have been completed. Flag and assign the case immediately. (See I-3-6-55, Interim Disability Benefits in Cases of Delayed Final Decisions.)
4. Delayed court remand case
This is a court remand case which is over 125 days old (counting from the date of the court's order) or which the Appeals Council has remanded to an ALJ a second time. Flag and assign the case immediately.
5. Other court remand case
Flag and assign the case immediately.
6. Title XVI non-disability case
Assign the case immediately as the hearing decision must be issued within 90 days from the date of the RH.
7. Disability cessation case
Assign the case immediately to avoid or minimize overpayments.
8. Case which appears to meet the criteria for dismissal
Assign the case immediately as the ALJ may be able to issue a dismissal order quickly. (See I-2-4 ff, Dismissals.)
9. Case in which the claimant has waived the right to an oral hearing
Assign the case immediately as the ALJ may be able to issue a decision quickly.
The ALJ may determine, based on his or her examination of the record, that a hearing should be held despite the waiver.
10. Case in which a claimant has waived his or her right to regular advance notice of hearing
A claimant's waiver of the right to regular advance notice indicates that he or she does not need advance notice to prepare for the hearing, and desires a hearing as soon as possible. Therefore, if the HO staff can accommodate the claimant because of a cancellation by another claimant or any other reason, it should assign the case to an ALJ and schedule a hearing as soon as possible, without the usual advance notice.
11. Appeals Council remand
Flag and assign the case immediately. Appeals Council remands, including those generated by the courts, are assigned to the same ALJ who issued the decision or dismissal unless:
the case was previously assigned to that ALJ on a prior remand from the Appeals Council and the ALJ's decision or dismissal after remand is the subject of the new Appeals Council remand, or
the Appeals Council or the court directs that the case be assigned to a different ALJ.