Last Update: 3/2/15 (Transmittal I-2-135)
In the past, an administrative law judge (ALJ) was required to issue a recommended decision when a claim was remanded from Federal court or when a prior claim was pending in Federal court. However, on September 13, 1989, the agency amended its regulations to remove this practice. For background information on recommended decisions, see Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-4-8-5.
Under current 20 CFR 404.953(c) and 416.1453(d), an ALJ will usually issue their own decision, but may send a recommended decision to the Appeals Council when appropriate (as described in this section). Under 20 CFR 404.979 and 416.1479, the Appeals Council will review the recommended decision and adopt, modify, or reject the recommended decision by taking one of the following actions:
Issue the final decision on behalf of the Commissioner;
Remand the case for further action by an ALJ; or
In a non-court case or a sentence four court remand case, dismiss the request for hearing for any reason the ALJ could have dismissed the request.
B. Conditions for Issuing a Recommended Decision
1. When a Recommended Decision Is Required
An ALJ must issue a recommended decision when:
The Appeals Council directs the ALJ to issue a recommended decision (see HALLEX I-3-2-50); or
The ALJ wants to issue a decision in one individual's application that conflicts with a prior ALJ or Appeals Council decision on another individual's application.
A recommended decision would be necessary if the ALJ wants to find that the claimant is a widow of a deceased wage earner when another ALJ found another person to be the widow of the deceased wage earner.
2. When a Recommended Decision May Be Appropriate
As noted in the regulations, an ALJ will usually issue their own decision. However, an ALJ may determine a recommended decision is appropriate in situations like the following:
The case involves a novel issue of policy or procedure; or
The court remand order and supplemental Appeals Council remand order directives are unusually vague, and the ALJ is unsure whether they have complied with the order(s).
An ALJ should not recommend a decision on their own initiative unless they are able to articulate the reason a recommended decision is appropriate. ALJs will not issue a recommended decision merely to avoid issuing a decision in a particular case. ALJs will also not issue a recommended decision merely because the ALJ personally disagrees with the agency's policy on a particular subject matter and the subject matter is an issue in the case.
1. Format and Content of a Recommended Decision
The format and content of a recommended decision is generally the same as a final decision, as described in HALLEX I-2-8-25, except that:
The word “RECOMMENDED” is added to the heading of the decision; and
The decisional paragraph identifies the decision as a recommended decision.
When an ALJ issues a recommended decision, the ALJ must also send a copy of the recommended decision to all parties to the hearing and the appointed representative, if any. See 20 CFR 404.953(c), 416.1453(d), 404.977(c) and 416.1477(c). For more information about who is a party to the hearing, see HALLEX I-2-1-45. The notice accompanying the recommended decision will explain that the parties have 20 days from the date of receiving the recommended decision to file briefs, exceptions, or other written statements about the facts and law relevant to the case with the Appeals Council. Any party may ask the Appeals Council for additional time to file briefs or statements, and the Appeals Council may extend the 20-day period if it finds there is good cause for doing so.
2. Claim(s) File and System Inputs
The hearing office must convert any electronic claim(s) file to paper when an ALJ issues a recommended decision. Generally, hearing office staff will:
Note in eView and the Case Management and Processing System (CPMS) that the case was converted to paper, will require manual establishment by the Appeals Council, and was forwarded to the Appeals Council for further processing;
Enter all necessary decisional inputs into CPMS;
Manually enter the Appeals Council routing code Y46 in CPMS;
Complete and print a transmittal sheet;
Update the paper folder indicator in eView (for electronic cases);
Print all documents from eView and place them in a six-part folder (for electronic cases);
Ensure a copy of the hearing recording is associated with the paper file;
Fax a copy of the decision to the Appeals Council at (703) 605-7201 with a notation that a paper claim(s) file is in transit; and
Mail the paper file with the transmittal to:Social Security Administration
Office of Appellate Operations
Attn: Executive Director's Office
6401 Security Blvd
Baltimore, MD 21235-6401.
For detailed step by step instructions for internal agency users, see the Standard Hearings Operations Procedure, section 6.2.2 for processing recommended decisions in CPMS.