I-2-1-90.Hearing Office Staff Referrals of Possible Policy or Procedural Issues
Last Update: 1/19/16 (Transmittal I-2-164)
In most situations, reference to the Social Security Act, regulations, rulings, the Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual or the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) will resolve policy or procedural issues that arise during the adjudication process. On rare occasions, hearing office (HO) staff may observe a novel or unusual situation for which additional advice is needed (e.g., there are no instructions for the situation or a clarification of existing instructions is needed).
When necessary, HO staff will first consult with the first line supervisor regarding the issue(s). If the first line supervisor determines that further discussion is warranted, the supervisor will raise the issue(s) with the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge (HOCALJ).
If the case has not yet been assigned to an administrative law judge (ALJ), and the HOCALJ believes the issue(s) involves a broader impact on the hearing operation (i.e., will likely arise in other situations) or needs further advice, the HOCALJ will forward the matter to the Office of Hearings Operations regional office (RO).
If the case has already been assigned to an ALJ, the HOCALJ (or his or her designee) will advise the ALJ of the issue(s) and ask the ALJ to evaluate it. If, after evaluating the issue(s), the ALJ needs additional guidance, he or she will again discuss the matter with the HOCALJ. If the ALJ and HOCALJ agree that further guidance is needed, the HOCALJ will forward the matter to the RO.
If the novel or unusual situation involves only a question of how to perform a clerical task based on a recent policy or procedural change, it may be more appropriate for HO staff to discuss the issue with the Hearing Office Director (HOD) rather than the HOCALJ. Using the same general principles above, the HOD will refer an issue to the RO when appropriate. In these circumstances, a HOD will generally err on the side of referring a procedural issue to the RO as other HOs will likely encounter the same issue.
RO personnel will evaluate the policy or procedural issue(s) and determine whether a referral to the Division of Field Procedures (DFP) in the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge is appropriate. Generally, a referral from the RO is appropriate when the policy or procedural question is of such complexity or significance that additional guidance is required, or when it is likely that there is inconsistent application of a policy or procedure nationwide. If referral to DFP is appropriate, RO personnel will send the referral by email to ¦¦¦OHO OCALJ DFP. DFP will decide the appropriate course of action based on the particular issue(s) and circumstances.