I-2-1-88.Appeals Council Feedback Initiative
Last Update: 3/2/15 (Transmittal I-2-134)
While an administrative law judge (ALJ) may only request clarification of an Appeals Council (AC) remand order in limited circumstances (see Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-1-85), there are other circumstances when feedback to the AC is appropriate. The AC feedback initiative (ACFI) is a method used to provide feedback to the AC regarding its remand orders. ACFI referrals are invaluable because they can facilitate discussion about specific issues, including inconsistent application of Social Security Administration policy or potential training needs at both the AC and at the hearing level.
B. Appropriate Cases for the ACFI
If an ALJ receives an AC remand order that does not meet the criteria for clarification under HALLEX I-2-1-85, but is unclear, may demonstrate inconsistent application of policy by the AC, or, while technically correct, contains only insignificant errors that would not likely result in a federal court remand, he or she can refer the remand through the ACFI.
A referral to the ACFI does not delay or impact the way an ALJ processes a case. Despite an ACFI referral, the ALJ will follow normal case processing procedures and act on the remand in a timely manner. An ALJ will not hold the case while awaiting a response regarding an ACFI referral.
Examples of appropriate ACFI referrals include:
The AC issues a remand order for two reasons and one of the reasons is a mistake (e.g., the AC missed a document in the file that contained the authorization for the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge (HOCALJ) to sign a decision for the ALJ who held the hearing); or
The AC issues a remand order that contains a clear directive(s) but does not set forth the justification for the directive(s).
While the ACFI is primarily used for feedback about AC remand orders, an ALJ may refer a case through the ACFI if an ALJ feels feedback on an AC decision may be appropriate.
If an ALJ cannot carry out a remand order directive(s) or the directive(s) appears to be rendered moot, then the ALJ will use the request for clarification process, as described in HALLEX I-2-1-85 (and set forth in HALLEX I-2-1-86 or I-2-1-87). The clarification process allows the AC to vacate its remand order and take appropriate corrective action in the case.
C. Referral Process
If the conditions in subsection B above are met, an ALJ can refer a case through the ACFI. To refer a case, the ALJ will:
Prepare an e-mail with the subject line “AC Feedback Initiative Referral,” and include in the body of the email the claimant's name, Social Security Number, and a brief statement identifying the problem with the remand order; and
Send the email to a designated mailbox in the regional office (RO).
The designated RO mailboxes are:
Region 1: ^OHO R1 Remand Feedback
Region 2: ^OHO R2 Programs
Region 3: ^OHO R3 Remand Feedback Initiative
Region 4: ^OHO Atlanta RO Remand Feedback
Region 5: ^OHO R5 Remand Initiative
Region 6: ^OHO R6 ALJ Comments
Region 7: ^OHO R7 Remand Feedback Initiative
Region 8: ^OHO R8 Remand Feedback
Region 9: ^OHO San Francisco RO Remand Feedback
Region 10: ^OHO RX Remand Feedback
National Hearing Center: ¦¦¦OHO OCALJ NHC Central Office
On receipt, RO personnel will evaluate the referral and decide whether to forward the referral for further consideration to the Division of Field Procedures (DFP) in the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (OCALJ). When a referral is appropriate, RO personnel will send the referral to OCALJ at ¦¦¦OHO OCALJ DFP. The RO will advise the ALJ either that the referral was forwarded to OCALJ or will provide the reason that it did not forward the referral.
OCALJ will evaluate the referral and decide whether to forward the referral to the AC for review. If OCALJ forwards the referral to the AC, it will advise the RO and referring ALJ via email. If OCALJ decides not to forward the referral, it will advise the RO and the HOCALJ via email of the reason the referral was not sent to the AC.
When evaluating the referral, either the RO or OCALJ may determine that the referral is more appropriate for the request for clarification process. In those cases, the RO or OCALJ will reroute the referral using the procedures in HALLEX I-2-1-86.
The AC will evaluate the issue and take any necessary action to provide feedback to the appropriate individuals in the Office of Appellate Operations. In some cases, the AC may use the referrals to make recommendations regarding policies or procedures, or to recommend additional training.