I-2-1-86.Formal Requests for Clarification - Procedures

Last Update: 3/2/15 (Transmittal I-2-134)

See Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-1-85 for an explanation of when a formal request for clarification is appropriate.

A. Communicating With the Appeals Council (AC)

An administrative law judge (ALJ), or any assisting hearing office (HO) staff, who wants to request formal clarification of an AC remand order must communicate with the AC only as set forth below. HO staff and ALJs may not directly contact AC adjudicators regarding specific cases, regardless of whether the case is pending at the AC or at the HO.

NOTE:

As used herein, HO staff and ALJs include staff and ALJs in a National Hearing Center.

B. Procedures

As set forth in this subsection, there are two distinct steps to obtain formal clarification from the AC:

  • First, an ALJ must obtain approval from HO management to request clarification (see B.1. below); and

  • Second, if HO management approves, the ALJ must submit the request to the AC and obtain a response from the AC before acting on the hearing level case (see B.2. below).

1. Obtaining HO Management Approval

To obtain HO management approval to request clarification of an AC remand order, the ALJ or designated HO staff must request, in writing via email, concurrence from the Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge (RCALJ) that a clarification request is appropriate (i.e., meets the criteria for clarification). The ALJ must request concurrence as soon as possible after receiving the AC remand order and the claim file(s).

If the RCALJ does not agree that the request meets the criteria for clarification, the RCALJ will inform the ALJ of the decision in writing (via email) as soon as possible so the ALJ can proceed with the hearing. If the RCALJ agrees the clarification request is valid, the RCALJ, or regional office (RO) staff designated by the RCALJ, will request approval, in writing, from the Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ) as soon as possible after receiving the ALJ's request. The RCALJ will submit the request to the Director of the Division of Field Procedures (DFP) in the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (OCALJ) in writing via email at ¦¦¦OHO OCALJ DFP, and DFP will make a recommendation to the CALJ.

The CALJ will approve or disapprove the clarification request and OCALJ will inform the RCALJ or designee of the decision in writing via email as soon as possible. After OCALJ informs the RCALJ or designee of the decision, the RCALJ or designee will inform the ALJ of the decision in writing by email.

2. Submitting the Request and Obtaining a Response from the AC

If the ALJ receives approval from the CALJ, the ALJ or designated HO staff will request clarification from the AC by:

  • Notifying the claimant and any representative of the clarification request through written correspondence and including the correspondence in the B section of the paper claim(s) file or uploading the notification to the B section of the electronic claim(s) file before sending the request to the AC. (If the claim(s) file does not include this notification, the AC will usually deny the request for clarification.)

  • Preparing a written request to the AC that includes the claimant's full name, Social Security number (SSN), and the following statement at the beginning of the clarification request, “The Chief Administrative Law Judge has approved this request for clarification of an Appeals Council remand order.”

  • Sending the approved clarification request to the AC via email at ^DCARO OAO, with the subject line “Formal Request for Clarification – [claimant's last name]”. The sender will not include the claimant's SSN in the subject line. The email must include any prior emails from the RO staff, RCALJ, and OCALJ.

    NOTE:

    In paper cases, the email should clearly state the case is paper. An email response from the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) is required before HO staff can mail a paper file to the AC. If the HO has not received a response within 30 days, staff may send a follow-up email to ^DCARO OAO, with “Second Request” added to the subject line. HO staff will not include the claimant's SSN in the subject line. If the AC requests the paper file, HO staff will attach a copy of the AC's email to the front of the paper file and mail the file to:

    Executive Director, Appeals Council
    Office of Appellate Operations
    Attn: Formal Request for Clarification
    5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 1400
    Falls Church, VA 22041-3255

    DO NOT OPEN IN MAILROOM

The AC will respond to the ALJ in writing as soon as possible. The AC may respond via email to the ALJ, RCALJ, and OCALJ. However, the AC will send paper copies of a response via regular mail to the claimant and representative.

3. Follow Up

If the HO has not received a response to the clarification request within 30 days, a follow-up email may be sent to ^DCARO OAO, with “Second Request” added to the subject line. HO staff will not include the claimant's SSN in the subject line.