I-2-5-85.Use of Prehearing Questionnaires – General
Last Update: 1/15/16 (Transmittal I-2-162)
An administrative law judge (ALJ) may find a prehearing questionnaire useful to develop the record prior to conducting a hearing or to resolve issues that may result in issuing a favorable decision without the need for a hearing. Additionally, an ALJ may use a prehearing questionnaire to narrow the issues that he or she will decide at the hearing. In limited circumstances, a prehearing questionnaire may also be useful to obtain information needed to schedule and conduct a hearing.
When an ALJ uses a prehearing questionnaire, he or she will ensure that a copy of the questionnaire and any response is associated with the claim(s) file. When the questionnaire (and associated response) is material to the issues in a case, the ALJ will exhibit the document(s). See Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-1-15.
In some instances, an ALJ may find a prehearing questionnaire useful in conjunction with a prehearing conference (see HALLEX I-2-1-75).
The following are examples of when an ALJ may want to use a prehearing questionnaire:
The ALJ wants to obtain evidence, including information from the claimant or an appointed representative, that may help determine whether the claimant's impairment(s) meets or equals a listing in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1;
The ALJ needs to clarify an issue(s) that would result in a favorable decision or might require development before the hearing (e.g., to obtain an explanation of earnings);
The claimant's application includes a significant number of impairments, and it would be helpful for the ALJ to know which impairment(s) the claimant alleges meets the criteria for a severe impairment, meets or medically equals a listing, or results in functional limitations (NOTE: While collecting this information may help an ALJ focus the issue(s) at hearing, the ALJ may not limit the claimant's testimony at hearing based the claimant's response to this type of question in a prehearing questionnaire);
The ALJ needs to obtain a list of witnesses from the claimant to determine the subject and scope of testimony (see HALLEX I-2-6-60) and to schedule the hearing with sufficient time; and
The ALJ needs to obtain a stipulation.
An ALJ may not impose penalties, threaten sanctions, reduce an appointed representative's fee, suggest the request for hearing may be dismissed, or otherwise indicate the ALJ may take an adverse action if the claimant or appointed representative fail to complete and submit responses to the prehearing questionnaire.