I-2-8-35.Decision When Record Includes Evidence That is Potentially Detrimental to a Claimant's Health

Last Update: 7/25/14 (Transmittal I-2-114)

A. General

If a claim(s) file includes evidence that is potentially detrimental to the claimant's health, the administrative law judge (ALJ) will give special attention when preparing the decision. While the ALJ's decision must provide, in understandable language, the findings of fact and the reasons for the decision, the ALJ must write the decision so as to avoid, as much as possible, harming the claimant. When writing the decision, the ALJ must:

  • Avoid using emotionally charged words, disapproving or derogatory terms, or personal judgments or opinions (even if the harmful language appears in evidence or testimony).

  • Paraphrase the evidence if the ALJ cites the potentially harmful evidence.

  • Exercise discretion in delicate situations (such as when the evidence indicates that the claimant may be suicidal, denies the presence of a mental impairment, or may not be aware of a terminal illness).

B. Transmittal of Decision Which Might Have Detrimental Effect — Claimant Is Represented

If disclosure or discussion of a particular condition may be detrimental to a claimant's health, and the claimant has an appointed representative, the ALJ may elect to send a copy of the decision only to the representative. When an ALJ sends a decision only to a representative, the ALJ must also:

  • inform the claimant that the decision has been sent only to the representative; and

  • advise the representative to exercise discretion in deciding whether to show the claimant the decision.

C. Transmittal of Decision Which Might Have Detrimental Effect — Claimant Is Not Represented

When the claimant is unrepresented, the ALJ must send a copy of the decision to the claimant.