I-3-0-2.Composition and Function of the Appeals Council

Last Update: 9/08/05 (Transmittal I-3-36)

The Associate Commissioner for Hearings and Appeals is the Chair of the Appeals Council. The Executive Director of OAO is the Deputy Chair of the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council includes other Administrative Appeals Judges (AAJs) and Appeals Officers (AOs).

In accordance with a direct delegation of authority from the Commissioner of Social Security, the Appeals Council is the final level of administrative review for claims filed under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act), and Part B of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act (Black Lung Benefits).

The Appeals Council impartially considers Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decisions and orders of dismissal, either at the request of the claimant or on its own motion. When the Appeals Council grants a claimant's request for review or reviews a case on its own motion, the Appeals Council may render the Commissioner's final decision, issue an order of dismissal, or remand the case to an ALJ for further proceedings.

Cases are assigned to Administrative Appeals Judges or Appeals Officers in Jurisdictional Groups according to Circuit Court Jurisdictions.

In addition to the actions by the AAJ(s) or AO(s) on individual cases, the AAJs also act en banc to decide issues raised in cases that come before them for review. Typically, these are issues that arise in a significant number of cases and on which there are no clear precedents in the statute, regulations, or rulings by the Commissioner of Social Security. In order that it may act in a consistent manner in all such cases, the AAJs, with the Chair or Deputy Chair presiding, meet en banc to discuss these issues, and, as necessary, enunciates adjudicatory principles and guidelines. These principles are recorded in Appeals Council Interpretations or meeting notes, and are distributed to all Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) adjudicators.