Last Update: 3/10/16 (Transmittal I-2-167)

Under sections 205(b)(1) and 1631(c)(1) of the Social Security Act (Act), the Commissioner of Social Security will make findings of fact and decisions as to the rights of any individual applying for benefits under titles II and XVI of the Act.

Generally, upon completion of all needed hearing proceedings, an administrative law judge (ALJ) will complete action on a request for hearing (RH) or a remand order by issuing a written decision. See 20 CFR 404.953 and 416.1453. However, an ALJ will not issue a written decision when:

  • Dismissal of the RH is more appropriate (see Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-4-5); or

  • The ALJ is issuing a recommended decision (see HALLEX I-2-8-15).

The primary purpose of an ALJ decision is to dispose of relevant issues, including:

  • Issues decided unfavorably at a prior level of adjudication;

  • Additional issues properly raised by the claimant, appointed representative, or the ALJ in connection with the RH; or

  • In remanded cases, any issue(s) the Appeals Council or a court directed the ALJ to address.

The ALJ must base the findings of fact and the ultimate decision on evidence received at the hearing or otherwise included in the record. The ALJ will ensure that the decision is:

  • Accurate and legally sufficient;

  • Logically organized;

  • Written so the claimant can understand it; and

  • Issued as soon as possible after the record is complete.

For detailed information about writing an ALJ decision, see HALLEX I-2-8-25. For information about the effect of and finality of an ALJ decision, see 20 CFR 404.955 and 416.1455, as well as HALLEX I-2-8-5. For decision signature requirements, see HALLEX I-2-8-43.

The ALJ will mail a copy of the decision to all parties to the hearing and the appointed representative, if any, at the last known address. See 20 CFR 404.953 and 416.1453.


If the record includes evidence that is potentially detrimental to a claimant's health, see HALLEX I-2-8-35.