I-2-2-45.Social Security Rulings and Acquiescence Rulings

Last Update: 7/28/16 (Transmittal I-2-180)

A. Social Security Rulings (SSR)

As explained in 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1), SSRs are published under the authority of the Commissioner of Social Security. The purpose of an SSR is to make available to the public a series of precedential final opinions, orders, statements of policy, and interpretations that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has adopted in claims under the Federal old-age, survivors, disability, and supplemental security income programs. SSRs may be based on determinations or decisions made at all levels of administrative adjudication, Federal court decisions, Commissioner's decisions, opinions of the Office of the General Counsel, and other interpretations of the law and regulations.

SSRs are first published in the Federal Register and are effective upon publication. An SSR's effective date is shown on the first page of the SSR. Although SSRs do not have the force and effect of law and regulations, they are binding on all SSA components and are to be relied upon as precedents in adjudicating cases. An SSR may be superseded, modified, or revoked by later legislation, regulatory changes, or subsequent rulings.

B. Acquiescence Rulings (AR)

1. Published ARs

As explained in 20 CFR 402.35(b)(2), ARs are published under the authority of the Commissioner of Social Security. The purpose of an AR is to explain how SSA will apply a United States Court of Appeals (circuit court) holding that conflicts with SSA's interpretation of a provision in the Social Security Act or regulations. SSA will apply a circuit court holding as explained in the AR to other cases in the same circuit where the same issues are involved.

ARs are first published in the Federal Register and are generally effective on the date of publication. An AR's effective date is shown on the first page of the AR. Detailed information about SSA's policy and procedures for ARs can be found in 20 CFR 404.985 and 416.1485. Of particular note, the regulations explain that a claimant who receives a determination or decision between the date of an adverse circuit court decision and the date SSA publishes an AR has the right to request application of the AR if he or she can demonstrate that application of the AR could change the prior determination or decision.

NOTE:

Usual AR procedures do not apply to the claims of New York disability claimants who are covered by the court approved settlement in Steiberger v. Sullivan. In those cases, see the instructions in Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law manual I-5-4-13.

2. AR Not Published But Is Under Consideration

There may be circumstances when it is necessary for hearing office (HO) staff or an administrative law judge (ALJ) to determine whether an AR is under active consideration by SSA. When needed, HO staff or the ALJ may contact the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) regional office (RO) for assistance. If the RO is unable to resolve the issue, it may refer the question to the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge's Division of Field Procedures via email at ¦¦¦ODAR OCALJ DFP.

NOTE:

Even when an ALJ has confirmation that an AR is under active consideration, he or she will not delay adjudicating a case unless he or she is notified that an AR will be published within a reasonably short period (e.g., SSA has sent the final AR to the Federal Register for printing and publication is expected within a week).

Typically, if SSA is actively considering issuing an AR, SSA will ask offices in the affected court circuit to code pending cases that involve the same issues, but will not usually require any other action at that time. At the hearing level, cases are coded by adding a designated case characteristic in the Case Processing and Management System. When SSA issues the AR, it will provide further instruction for handling cases impacted by the AR.

However, if a claimant or appointed representative argues that a circuit court holding applies to the facts of a claimant's case and an AR has not been published, an ALJ will address the issue in the decision or other written correspondence, as follows:

a. Publication of an AR Is Not Under Active Consideration

If an AR is not under active consideration, the ALJ will add the following or similar language in his or her decision or other correspondence:

(The claimant/The claimant's representative) has stated that the ___ Circuit's recent decision in ______ v._______ should be applied in this case and requires a finding that _____________ .

Pursuant to the regulations (20 CFR 404.985 and/or 416.1485), if SSA determines that a circuit court holding conflicts with SSA's interpretation of a provision of the Social Security Act or regulations and the Government does not seek further review or is unsuccessful on further review, SSA will issue a Social Security Acquiescence Ruling (AR). If SSA has not issued an AR, it will apply its interpretation of the law and regulations.

SSA has not published an AR in ______ v._______. Accordingly, SSA's interpretation of the law and regulations applies.

b. Publication of an AR Is Under Active Consideration

If an AR is under active consideration, the ALJ will add the following or similar language in the decision or other written correspondence:

(The claimant/The claimant's representative) has stated that the ___ Circuit's recent decision in ______ v._______ should be applied in this case and requires a finding that _____________ . Pursuant to the regulations (20 CFR 404.985 and/or 416.1485), if SSA determines that a circuit court holding conflicts with SSA's interpretation of a provision of the Social Security Act or regulations and the Government does not seek further review or is unsuccessful on further review, SSA will issue a Social Security Acquiescence Ruling (AR). If SSA has not issued an AR, it will apply its interpretation of the law and regulations.

SSA has not published an AR in ______ v._______. Accordingly, SSA's interpretation of the law and regulations applies.

ARs are generally effective on the date of publication in the Federal Register, and will apply to all determinations and decisions made by SSA within the same circuit on or after that date. If SSA publishes an AR at some future date, pursuant to 20 CFR 404.985 and/or 416.1485, the claimant may request application of the published ruling to this case under the readjudication procedures provided in the regulations. The claimant must first demonstrate that application of the published ruling could change the decision.