I-2-1-58.Transfer and Assignment of Cases to a National Hearing Center
Last Update: 8/29/14 (Transmittal I-2-116)
A. National Hearing Centers (NHC) in General
NHCs are centralized offices that process only fully electronic files and conduct hearings primarily by video teleconferencing (VTC) and, in extraordinary circumstances, by telephone. This enables NHC administrative law judges (ALJ) to adjudicate cases in parts of the country with the heaviest workloads and most significant backlogs.
B. Transfer Policy
These instructions apply when a large batch of cases are transferred from a hearing office (HO) to an NHC. These instructions do not apply for individual case transfers or cases transferred to another hearing office.
2. Authority To Transfer
The Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (OCALJ), in conjunction with the NHC's Central Office, is responsible for determining the need for and arrangement of case transfers to an NHC.
3. Cases That May Be Transferred to an NHC
Transfers to NHCs are based on workload assistance needs. Only fully electronic cases may be transferred to the NHCs. No paper cases are transferred to an NHC. In the event a case is excluded from the Electronic Disability Collect System (EDCS) and is made a paper claim(s) file prior to a hearing being held, the case must be returned to the transferring HO.
In addition, OCALJ will not authorize the transfer of any case to an NHC that would not be transferred to a non-service area HO under HALLEX I-2-1-57 A.4.
4. Notification of Court Requirements and Contractor Information
The assigned NHC ALJ must follow the court requirements for the jurisdiction where the claimant resides, regardless of location, to the extent consistent with SSA regulations and any applicable Acquiescence Ruling (AR).
5. VTC Availability
In order to ensure that hearings on transferred cases can be scheduled timely, the transferring HO must work closely with the NHC during the transfer process to confirm that VTC equipped facilities can be scheduled at both sites within reasonable time frames.
6. Routing Cases
Once the transfer of cases is arranged, the transferring HO must send the cases to the assisting NHC within 5 days.
It is the responsibility of the NHC 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 NHC.
C. Assigning and Processing Cases
1. Authority To Assign Cases
On receipt of cases, NHC management will generally assign dockets to ALJs on a rotational basis.
2. Use of Video Teleconferencing and Telephone
The NHC will only process electronic files and conduct hearings by VTC. In extraordinary circumstances (see HALLEX I-2-0-15), the NHC will hold a hearing by telephone.
3. Scheduling Hearings
To the extent possible, the NHC will schedule hearings on 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.
4. Continuances and Postponements
Cases that cannot be scheduled within 60 days, or are postponed or continued and cannot be rescheduled within a reasonable timeframe, will be returned to the transferring HO. The NHC will coordinate return of these cases with the NHC Central Office and OCALJ.
The Appeals Council sends remands for NHC ALJ decisions or dismissals to the HO servicing the claimant's current address. If the NHC is still providing assistance to the HO and the NHC ALJ is currently on duty in the same NHC, the case may be assigned to the NHC ALJ unless the claimant has filed a timely objection to appearing at the hearing by VTC. See HALLEX I-2-0-21.