I-5-4-21-A.McDonald, et al., v. Bowen

Table of Contents
I Background
II Definition of Class
III Implementation of Court Order
IV Adjudication of Cases
V Questions
Attachment 2 AC Remand

ISSUED: June 24, 1987


This temporary instruction (TI) applies only to cases involving persons residing in Massachusetts. It is being issued nationally for informational purposes only.

I. Background

TI 5-4-21 dated September 3, 1986, described the order issued on July 17, 1986 by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in the McDonald case. The circuit court reversed the district court's decision of December 19, 1985 insofar as it enjoined the Secretary from applying the “not severe” regulations. However, the circuit court upheld the district court's supplemental order, issued on March 10, 1986, requiring the Secretary to consider the combined effect of multiple nonsevere impairments when readjudicating claims of class members who received final decisions of the Secretary prior to December 1, 1984. This TI sets out procedures for readjudicating cases under the McDonald court order. SSA will readjudicate the claims of all class members who exhausted their administrative remedies and who were denied benefits based on the policy of not considering the combined effects of multiple nonsevere impairments (the policy which was in effect through November 30, 1984).

II. Definition of Class

For purposes of this TI, the McDonald class consists of Massachusetts title II and title XVI disability claimants who were denied benefits because they did not have a severe impairment(s) and:

  1. who exhausted their administrative remedies (i.e., had an AC decision or AC denial of the request for review of an ALJ decision) between 6/28/84 and 11/30/84; and

  2. whose claims were denied without consideration of the combined effect of multiple nonsevere impairments.

III. Implementation of Court Order

A. Identification of Class Members

Identification of the class members began January 5, 1987 with the receipt in OHA Headquarters of a computer-generated list of Appeals Council actions and decisions. The Litigation Staff, Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Programs (ODCP), has sent OHA Headquarters an updated list of file locations of potential class member cases. The Division of Support Services, OAO, will retrieve files from OHA components, State agencies and Social Security field offices. ODCP Litigation Staff will arrange for the retrieval of files located in the Federal Records Center and Processing Centers (including the Office of Disability Operations (ODO)). All located files will be sent to OAO Review Branch 3 which is responsible for screening and processing the McDonald cases. (OGC has provided notice of class relief in all pending court cases. Accordingly, OHA will not have to take any action to identify class members with cases pending before the courts.)

B. Notification of Class Members

OAO should prepare and send a letter and option form (Attachment 1), with a self-addressed franked envelope, to each identified class member. The claimant should complete and return the option form within 20 days from the date of the letter and the analyst should establish a control diary for 30 days. If the claimant affirmatively replies to the letter or does not return the option form, the Appeals Council or ALJ must readjudicate the case. If the claimant returns the form stating he or she does not want another Appeals Council review, it is not necessary for the Appeals Council to readjudicate the case. Since these cases involve implementation of a court order, all cases must receive expeditious handling.

IV. Adjudication of Cases

The Appeals Council will readjudicate the McDonald cases under SSA's current policy, in effect since December 1, 1984, of considering the combined effect of multiple nonsevere impairments. Current policy is described in detail in SSR 85-28

The Appeals Council should issue a decision in the case if possible, or, if not, remand the case to an ALJ for a new hearing and decision. (See sample remand order in Attachment 2.)

V. Questions

Hearing Office personnel may call the Regional Office. Regional Office personnel may call the Division of Field Practices and Procedures in the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge on FTS 305-0022. Headquarters personnel may call DLAI on 305-0708.



Name and
Address of Claimant


The Appeals Council notified you on _______________________ of its [action] [decision] in your case. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts has issued an order in the case of Claire McDonald et al. v. Bowen requiring the Social Security Administration to take another look at certain claims and consider the combined effect of multiple “nonsevere” impairments in determining whether an individual claimant is or was disabled.

You now have the opportunity to have your claim reviewed again by the Appeals Council and to receive a new decision because of the McDonald court order.

If you choose to have the Appeals Council review your claim again, you should complete the enclosed option form. You may submit additional evidence and/or a written statement as to the facts and law in your case. The option form and any additional evidence and/or a written statement should be submitted by mail to the Appeals Council within 20 days from the date of this letter. Please mail the material in the enclosed self-addressed envelope which requires no postage. If you need more time to submit additional evidence, you should advise the Appeals Council, by mail, within the 20-day time period, when it may be expected.

If you should have any questions about this letter, you may contact any Social Security office. Most questions can be handled by telephone or mail. If you visit an office, please take this letter with you.

  Administrative Appeals Judge

Option Form
Self-addressed Envelope

(Representative, if any)

Enclosure for Attachment 1




Claimant's Name


Social Security Number

(Please check appropriate box)


I request that the Appeals Council review mycase under the terms of the McDonald court order. I understand that if it is determined that I am not disabled, I will be notified of my appeal rights.

I plan to submit additional evidence/arguments (please check one)


No ______


I do not wish to have my case reviewed by the Appeals Council.





Current Address:




Attachment 2. AC Remand

Department of
Social Security Administration
Office of Hearings and Appeals



In the case of

Claim for






(Wage Earner) (Leave blank if same as above)

(Social Security Number)

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in McDonald et al. v. Bowen, (applicable to residents of the State of Massachusetts), has directed the Social Security Administration to readjudicate cases involving “nonsevere” impairments where the combined effect of multiple “nonsevere” impairments was not considered.

[Insert statement of additional reasons for remand.]

Therefore, the Appeals Council under authority of section 404.977 and/or 416.1477 of Social Security Administration Regulations Nos. 4 and/or 16 (20 CFR 404.977 and 416.1477, respectively), vacates the prior decision of the Administrative Law Judge [or Appeals Council] dated _______________, and remands this case to an Administrative Law Judge for further proceedings, including a (new) hearing and decision.

The Administrative Law Judge should give consideration to the specific issues raised in the March 10, 1986 order of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in McDonald et al. v. Bowen, and shall afford the claimant the opportunity to present further evidence on these issues0.

[Specify development if needed.]

The Administrative Law Judge may take any (additional) action not inconsistent with this Order.




Administrative Appeals Judge


Administrative Appeals Judge

Form HA-517