Last Update: 9/28/05 (Transmittal I-2-67)
A. Determining the Right to a Hearing
A claimant who has requested a hearing before an ALJ is entitled to appear and present evidence or information at such a hearing unless:
the claimant has waived his or her right to appear before an ALJ at a hearing (See I-2-1-45 F., Waiver of the Right to Appear at the Hearing.);
the ALJ decides to issue a fully favorable decision based on the evidence of record; or
the case is subject to dismissal. (See I-2-4 ff, Dismissals.)
A claimant whose case has been remanded by the Appeals Council must be offered an opportunity to appear and present evidence or information at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) even if the claimant initially waived his or her right to such appearance.
In title II disability claims in which the period at issue expired before the date of the hearing decision, the claimant need not be offered the opportunity to appear and present evidence at a hearing unless the ALJ finds that the facts warrant it. (See I-3-7-40 B.2.b.)
B. Types of Hearings
1. Joining Multiple Cases at One Hearing (when more than one claimant files a request a hearing and each request for hearing represents a different case)
If a request for hearing is filed in two or more cases, all issues to be decided in such cases are the same, and each claimant has agreed to waive the right to privacy and consented to have his or her case heard with the other claimant(s), the ALJ may (although there is no specific statutory authority for it) join the cases at one hearing. If, however, any claimant objects to having his or her case heard with the other claimant(s), the ALJ must honor the objecting claimant and afford him or her a separate hearing and decision.
The reason for joining two or more cases at one hearing is to avoid obtaining the same evidence and calling the same witnesses to give the same testimony at different hearings. For example, it would be appropriate to join two or more cases when deciding the issue of coverage based on work for a particular employer, and all of the persons requesting hearings were employed by the same employer under the same circumstances, and the evidence to be presented in each case would be pertinent to all of the claimants.
When considering whether to join two or more cases at one hearing, the ALJ should consider whether all claimants are within reasonable travel distance of the hearing site, whether there is a remote site in which a claimant's testimony may be taken by videoconference technology, and whether each claimant can be expected to participate fully so that each claimant will receive a fair hearing.
When an ALJ joins two or more cases at one hearing, the ALJ will make a single record of the proceedings, and consider all of the evidence of record in deciding each case. The ALJ may issue one decision which applies to all claimants, or issue separate decisions for each claimant.
2. Consolidated Hearings
The Regulations provide for consolidated hearings so an ALJ may dispose of cases involving the same individual with one hearing when practicable. Pursuant to the regulations at §§ 404.952 and 416.1452, an ALJ may hold a consolidated hearing when:
Requests for hearing are pending on more than one claim under any Social Security Administration administered law.
An ALJ, if practicable, shall conduct a consolidated hearing. Common issues are not required for consolidating pending requests for hearing.
A request for hearing is pending on one claim and another claim involving one or more of the same issues (common issues) is also pending at another level in SSA.
An ALJ may remove the other claim to himself or herself to conduct a consolidated hearing, even if SSA has not made an initial or reconsidered determination on that claim.
When a consolidated hearing is held, the ALJ and HO staff make a single record of the hearing proceedings. Evidence introduced in one case is considered evidence in the other case(s). The ALJ may issue a consolidated decision or separate decisions.