I-2-1-57.Transfer and Assignment of Non-Service Area Cases to Another Hearing Office

Last Update: 8/29/14 (Transmittal I-2-116)

A. Transfer Policy

1. General

These instructions apply when a large batch of cases are transferred from a hearing office (HO) to another HO for workload assistance purposes. These instructions do not apply for individual cases transfers or cases transferred to a National Hearing Center (NHC).

For individual case transfers, see Hearings, Appeal and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-0-70. For NHC workload assistance transfers, see HALLEX I-2-1-58.

2. Authority to Transfer

Within the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), a Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge (RCALJ) is authorized to determine the need for and arrange the transfer of non-service area cases to administrative law judges (ALJ) within the region.

The Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (OCALJ) is responsible for determining the need for and arrangement of case transfers between regions. To control costs, OCALJ will arrange transfers between neighboring regions whenever practicable.

3. When Non-Service Area Cases Will Be Transferred

ODAR management transfers non-service area cases to resolve temporary workload imbalances or increase productivity until management can take permanent measures. Before transferring cases, management must consider alternative approaches to balancing workloads, such as:

  • Temporary or permanent service area realignments (both intraregional and interregional);

  • The use of video teleconferencing (VTC) to hold hearings;

  • Temporary staff details and reassignments; and

  • Hiring or transferring ALJs or staff (when possible).

If transferring non-service area cases is necessary, the RCALJ will transfer intra-region before requesting out-of-region assistance. Management will not transfer non-service area cases unless the assisting office can hear and decide the cases more quickly than the transferring office.

When ODAR management has decided to transfer cases from a particular HO, the HO's management will transfer cases that are most likely to reduce processing times and provide better public service.

4. When a Non-Service Area Case Will Not Be Transferred

Due to expected delay, HOs will not transfer the following types of non-service area cases:

  • Cases without current claim files;

  • Retirement and survivors insurance cases;

  • Cases involving supplemental security income for the aged;

  • Continuing disability review (CDR) cases in which the claimant has opted to continue receiving payment of benefits pending the hearing decision;

  • Cases requiring research into state law (if being assigned to an ALJ in another state); and

  • Cases where the claimant has properly objected to a hearing by VTC and the claimant's residence has not changed.

NOTE:

We will honor the claimant's request not to appear by VTC even when a claimant changes residences if there is no additional delay or other reason not to schedule the claimant for an in person hearing. See HALLEX I-2-0-21 A and I-2-1-57 C below.

5. Disagreement with the Transfer

Once the transfer is made, cases cannot be returned to the transferring office for any reason without RCALJ approval in intraregional assignments or OCALJ approval in interregional assignments. When the transferring and assisting offices disagree regarding case transfers, the RCALJ will resolve the issue in intraregional assignments, and OCALJ and both RCALJs will resolve the issue in interregional assignments.

B. Procedures for Transferring Cases Between Hearing Offices

1. Claimant's Right to Review the File Before Transfer (Paper Cases)

Although typically not an issue when a claim(s) file is electronic, the transferring HO will generally offer the claimant the right to review the file before a paper claim(s) file is routed to the assisting HO. This is necessary because ALJs are encouraged to schedule VTC hearings in transferred cases whenever possible. See HALLEX I-2-1-57 C below.

2. Notification of Court Requirements and Contractor Information

The Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge (HOCALJ) of the transferring HO will prepare a memorandum containing any pertinent information the assisting HO may require, including any applicable Acquiescence Ruling (AR) or other Circuit court requirements. The HOCALJ will send this information to the assisting HO at the same time that the cases are mailed or electronically transferred.

NOTE:

The assigned ALJ must follow the Circuit court requirements for the jurisdiction where the claimant resides, regardless of location, to the extent consistent with SSA regulations and any applicable AR.

The assisting HO has the responsibility to arrange the appearance of expert witnesses, contract hearing reporters, and interpreters, and to prepare any necessary purchase orders. When preparing the purchase document, the assisting HO will use its Common Accounting Number (CAN) and will include the information in its administrative and budget system so that the cost-per-case data will be as accurate as possible. Additionally, because the case disposition will be credited to the assisting office, the costs associated with processing the case must also be credited to that office.

It is also the assisting HO's responsibility to send copies of the ALJ itineraries to the contract hearing reporter and the transferring HO.

3. Space Availability

When hearing office space in both offices is required for a VTC hearing, both HOs will coordinate efforts to schedule the hearings in regard to available hearing room space and recording equipment. (Generally, coordination is less of an issue at remote hearing sites because several ALJs may travel to assist the same HO simultaneously as long as space and contract hearing reporter services are available). Both HOs must work together closely to ensure any necessary actions are taken within reasonable time frames.

When the hearing will be held at a remote site, the transferring HO is responsible for providing to the assisting HO all necessary information regarding the availability of remote site hearing space and VTC capability. If the hearing space is not free, the assisting HO will prepare the purchase order using the assisting HO's CAN and administrative and budget system.

HOs that require extensive assistance with local cases will consider arranging for hearing space and contracting for outside hearing reporter services, which are in close proximity to the HO. (For the purpose of this policy, this hearing space will be considered a remote site, despite the close proximity.)

4. Routing Cases

Once the transfer of non-service area cases is arranged, the transferring HO must deliver the cases to the assisting HO within 5 days, either by electronic transfer for certified electronic folders or by mailing paper folders. At the same time the cases are transferred, the transferring HO must transmit via email a Case Processing and Management System list of the cases to the assisting HO. If the transferring HO is not able to send the cases within the five-day period, the Hearing Office Director must provide the assisting HO of an expected delivery date.

The assisting HO will be responsible for responding to any requests for copies of the file and for ensuring that compact discs or copies of the claim(s) file are mailed early enough to reach, or be available to, the requesters two weeks prior to the scheduled hearing. See HALLEX I-2-1-35. Exceptions to this policy may be made when agreeable to both transferring and assisting HOs.

It is the responsibility of the assisting HO to notify the claimants and their representatives of the case reassignment. This must be done as soon as possible after receipt of the cases in the assisting HO.

C. Assigning and Processing Non-Service Area Cases

1. Authority To Assign Non-Service Area Cases

On receipt of non-service area cases, the HOCALJ of the assisting office will generally assign non-service area dockets to ALJs on a rotational basis.

The HOCALJ will generally assign non-service area cases in a manner that affords the opportunity to schedule hearings by VTC. The HOCALJ will only provide an ALJ the opportunity to travel when VTC is not available, or a claimant has objected to a hearing by VTC, as described in HALLEX I-2-3-11. If the assignment requires the ALJ to travel, see instructions in HALLEX I-2-1-57 D below.

2. Use of Video Teleconferencing

To save resources and avoid delay, ALJs will schedule non-service area cases for hearings by VTC whenever practicable. See HALLEX I-2-3-10 A.1.b.

3. Scheduling Hearings

To the extent possible, the assisting HO will schedule hearings on non-service area cases within 60 days of receipt, or within a reasonable amount of time to permit a processing time that is comparable to or less than the average processing time at the transferring HO.

NOTE:

OCALJ will advise the assisting RO of the transferring HO's average processing time in interregional transfers. The RO can provide the assisting HO with the information when the transfer is intraregional.

Assisting HOs may not always be in a position to schedule hearings within 60 days. In these situations, OCALJ and the affected RO (or just the affected RO in the case of intraregional assignments) will arrange to match assisting HOs with the most heavily backlogged offices so that processing times will be comparable to or less than the average processing time at the transferring HO.

4. Continuances and Postponements

Cases that are postponed or continued will be returned to the transferring HO if they cannot be rescheduled so that the total processing time is comparable to or less than the average processing time at the transferring HO. When practicable (i.e., the assisting HO is still in a position to assist and to timely reschedule the cases, and the transferring HO still requires assistance), the HOCALJ in the transferring HO may work through his or her RO to assign the postponed or continued case to the ALJ who granted the postponement or continuance, or to another ALJ from the same assisting HO. When only one region is involved (i.e., both assisting and transferring HOs are in the same region), the RO will be responsible for ensuring that enough cases, in addition to the postponed or continued cases, are made available by the assisted HO to constitute a full docket. When the assisting and transferring HOs are in different regions, OCALJ must coordinate the reassignment and addition of cases to the docket.

5. Remands

The Appeals Council (AC) will usually remand cases to the HO servicing the claimant's address. When the transferring HO continues to require assistance and it is practicable, the HOCALJ in the transferring HO may work through his or her RO to assign the remand to the ALJ who initially heard the case or to another ALJ in the assisting office.

NOTE:

If the AC remand order indicates that a request for hearing on a subsequent application is pending in another HO, the HO will send the remand order to the other HO so the claims can be consolidated.