I-3-0-55.Processing Referrals From the Railroad Retirement Board
Last Update: 11/20/14 (Transmittal I-3-82)
Occasionally, the Appeals Council will receive a referral from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). The referral generally includes the following information:
A cover memo from the Assistant General Counsel, Director of Hearings and Appeals for the RRB;
A copy of an exhibit file;
A copy of an RRB hearing officer's decision; and
A copy of the hearing transcript (if applicable).
An RRB memo will typically explain that an RRB hearing officer allowed a disability annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act and a period of disability under the Social Security Act. The memo may also explain that there is a “financial interchange on a sampling of cases” between the RRB and the Social Security Administration (SSA). The RRB identifies hearing officer decisions that may meet the criteria to be included in the “sampling” of cases and refers these cases to the Appeals Council to consider on SSA's behalf. The Appeals Council reviews the RRB decision and states whether it agrees with the outcome.
If the Appeals Council agrees with the hearing officer's decision, the RRB will include the case in the financial interchange sampling. If the Appeals Council does not agree with the hearing officer's decision, the RRB will not include the case in the financial interchange sampling.
The RRB period of disability under the Social Security Act is not an award of disability insurance benefits. Rather, it is an award of a period of disability that will act as a “freeze” on the earnings record during the period of disability. For more information on the joint “freeze,” see Program Operations Manual System DI 44005.001.
B. Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) Staff Processing
1. Tracking Cases
RRB cases are not entered in the Appeals Review Processing System. Rather, at this time, the cases are tracked on a manual log maintained by OAO's Executive Director's Office (EDO).
2. Preparing Files
Designated OAO staff will prepare a case file and an appeal file. OAO staff will prepare a case file by putting the material in the following order:
The RRB referral memo;
The hearing officer's decision;
The hearing transcript (if any); and
The exhibit material, in the order prepared by the RRB hearing officer.
OAO will prepare an appeal file with a routing slip on the outside, and a copy of the decision and RRB memo on the inside.
Due to its unique function and because there is no impact on the claimant, OAO staff and the Appeals Council will not send any notification to the claimant or an appointed representative.
The Appeals Council is being asked whether it agrees with the decision, not whether it would grant review of the decision. The Appeals Council will use the existing record and the usual SSA 5 step sequential evaluation criteria in formulating its decision.
After evaluating the usual SSA criteria, OAO staff will draft a narrative analysis of the case with a recommendation as to whether the Appeals Council should agree with the hearing officer's decision. The analysis will make specific reference to material in the hearing officer's decision, the exhibit record, and the hearing testimony that explain the reason(s) for the recommendation. When it would be helpful for the Appeals Council in reviewing the case, OAO staff will also prepare a fact sheet.
OAO staff will place the analysis and recommendation in the appeal file.
5. Appeals Council Response Document
OAO staff will prepare a memo to the RRB Assistant General Counsel, briefly stating whether the Appeals Council agrees or disagrees with the decision. Generally, a very brief summary noting any pertinent information will suffice.
OAO staff will put the prepared memorandum in the appeal file without attaching the document (i.e., OAO staff will not prong file the document at this point).
6. Routing the File to the Appeals Council
As these are paper files, the case file and appeal file must be hand delivered or routed using a route slip to the EDO.
7. Appeals Council Review
The EDO will assign a designated administrative appeals judge (AAJ) to review the recommendation and sign the memo if he or she agrees. Only one AAJ signature is required in RRB cases.
If the AAJ disagrees with the recommendation, the AAJ will work closely with OAO staff in revising the analysis and memo.
8. Closing the Case
When the AAJ signs the memo, OAO staff will make a copy of the signed memo and add it to the case file and appeal file. OAO staff will then send the original signed memo to the RRB, and will route the case file to the EDO.
The EDO will retain the case file and the appeal file for two years and, thereafter, will destroy the file.