I-2-3-13.Reimbursement of Travel Expenses

Last Update: 7/31/15 (Transmittal I-2-147)

A. Authority

The authority for payment for certain travel expenses is set forth in 20 CFR 404.999a-999d and 416.1495-1499. Additional directives concerning the payment of travel expenses are located in the Administrative Instructions Manual System, Financial Management Manual, Chapter 07, Instruction No. 26 (AIMS. FMM 07.26).

B. Individuals Who Are Eligible for Travel Reimbursement

1. Claimant and Un-subpoenaed Witness

Designated hearing office (HO) personnel may authorize reimbursement for the travel expenses of a claimant or un-subpoenaed lay or medical witness whose appearance the administrative law judge (ALJ) determines is reasonably necessary for a fair hearing, when such person must travel more than 75 miles one way to attend the hearing. Reimbursable expenses typically include the ordinary expenses of public or private transportation as well as unusual costs due to special circumstances. See 20 CFR 404.999c and 416.1498.

NOTE 1:

When a change in the location of the hearing is made at the claimant's or representative's request, and the new hearing site is farther from the claimant's residence than the initial location, any additional travel expenses will not be reimbursed (i.e., eligibility and the amount of reimbursement will be based on the initial location of the hearing).

NOTE 2:

As explained in Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-6-15, a claimant who travels to an in-person hearing and meets the criteria above is entitled to reimbursement of travel expenses even if he or she previously objected to appearing at the hearing via video teleconferencing.

For claimants traveling from a foreign destination, see HALLEX I-2-0-72 E.

2. Subpoenaed Witness

Under 20 CFR 404.950(d)(1) and 416.1450(d)(1), an ALJ may issue a subpoena for the appearance and testimony of a witness when it is reasonably necessary for the full presentation of a case. See also HALLEX I-2-5-78. In that event, a subpoenaed witness is reimbursed the same fees and allowances paid to witnesses in Federal court, including:

  • a fee for each day's attendance (including a fee for the necessary time to travel to and from the place of attendance);

  • the actual cost of transportation by the most economical and expeditious mode; and

  • a subsistence allowance on the same basis that Social Security Administration employees are currently authorized.

These expenses are recorded on an E2 Solutions Non-employee Travel Voucher obtained from the Office of Budget, Finance, Quality, and Management, which must be signed by the subpoenaed witness and designated HO manager with travel approval authority. The ALJ presiding over the hearing at which the witness testified cannot act as the approving officer. The regional office (RO) will process the voucher and forward it to the appropriate servicing fiscal office for payment.

3. Representatives

A representative may request reimbursement if travel from the representative's office to the place where the hearing is held exceeds 75 miles one-way.

The amount of reimbursement a representative receives cannot exceed the maximum amount allowable for travel to the place of the hearing. The maximum amount allowable for travel to each individual hearing site is calculated by completing attachment B in Chapter 07, Instruction No. 26 in AIMS. Each HO must maintain this information for each hearing site in its jurisdiction (including the HO and all remote sites). As it is established or updated, the HO will forward a copy of the information to the RO.

NOTE 1:

If the distance between the place of the hearing and the farthest point in the entire HO geographic service area does not exceed 75 miles, representative travel expenses are not reimbursed.

NOTE 2:

Do not consider whether the representative traveled from outside the HO service area. Since a representative cannot receive more than the maximum amount allowable for a particular hearing site, it is irrelevant whether the travel occurred in or out of the service area.

NOTE 3:

When a change in the location of the hearing is made at the claimant's or representative's request, and the new hearing site is further from the representative's office than the initial location, any additional travel expenses will not be reimbursed (i.e., eligibility and the amount of reimbursement will be based on the initial location of the hearing).

Subject to the maximum amount allowable, ordinary expenses of public or private transportation are typically reimbursable. As appropriate, designated personnel may also consider unusual costs due to special circumstances. See 20 CFR 404.999c and 416.1498. However, the combined reimbursement of ordinary and unusual costs cannot exceed the maximum amount allowable for the hearing site.

If actual reimbursement for a representative's travel is less than the maximum amount allowable for travel to a hearing site, reimbursement is based on actual travel expenses and not the maximum amount allowable.