I-3-1-12.Screening for Hearing Recording
Last Update: 1/14/16 (Transmittal I-3-129)
A. Determining Whether There Is a Hearing Recording
Whenever an administrative law judge (ALJ) conducts hearing proceedings, he or she must make a complete record of the hearing proceedings. See Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-6-40. However, a claim(s) file may not have a hearing recording if the ALJ did not conduct any hearing proceedings. For example, a hearing recording may not exist when an ALJ dismisses a request for hearing or issues a favorable decision without holding a hearing.
1. Electronic Claim(s) File
If the claim(s) file is electronic, hearing office staff will upload any hearing recording to the claim(s) file. When screening for a hearing recording on initial receipt of an electronic claim(s) file, Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) staff will ensure it has been uploaded to the file and will perform a cursory spot check to determine whether the hearing recording is audible. Unless the hearing recording is missing or inaudible (see subsection B below), generally there is no further screening action required by OAO staff.
If the claimant or appointed representative requests a transcript of the hearing recording, see the instructions in HALLEX I-3-1-21.
2. Paper Claim(s) File
The hearing office procedures for handling hearing recordings in a paper claim(s) file are set forth in HALLEX I-2-8-50. In general terms, if the claim(s) file is paper and:
The decision is fully or partially favorable, hearing office staff will hold the compact disc (CD) hearing recording until there are 25 CDs ready to ship to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review Megasite; or
The decision is unfavorable, hearing office staff will associate the hearing recording in the recording storage envelope on the left side of the claim(s) file.
On receipt of a request for review involving a paper claim(s) file, OAO staff will ensure a copy of the hearing recording is properly associated with the claim(s) file. If the request for review relates to a fully or partially favorable ALJ decision, OAO staff will request the hearing recording from the hearing office, Megasite, or Federal Records Center (FRC) by using the Megasite Information Management System (MIMS). If the ALJ's decision is unfavorable and a hearing recording is not associated with the claim(s) file, see instructions in subsection B below.
OAO staff will provide 30 days for receipt if the hearing recording is in a hearing office or the FRC, and will follow up as necessary if the recording is not received within that timeframe. For recordings stored at the Megasite, OAO staff will follow up if the hearing recording is not received within 10 days. If the case requires critical case processing (see HALLEX I-3-1-5), OAO staff will notify the component holding the hearing recording that the request needs to be expedited and will follow up with a telephone call. OAO staff will document any actions taken in a remark in the Appeals Review Processing System (ARPS).
B. Hearing Recording Is Missing or Inaudible
If OAO staff screening a hearing recording find that the recording is missing or inaudible, staff will take the following actions when appropriate, or take the actions necessary to refer the case to a branch chief for resolution.
1. Contacting the Hearing Office
When a hearing recording is missing or inaudible, OAO staff will send an email to the hearing office with the subject line “Missing or Inaudible Hearing Recording.”
To find a hearing office email address, type ¦ODAR R[region number] into the global address book and locate the appropriate hearing office. For example, to locate the Boston hearing office email address, type in ¦ODAR R1 in the global address book and locate the Boston hearing office.
For National Hearing Centers, the general email address is ¦¦¦ODAR OCALJ NHC (name of NHC location).
Alternatively, the email addresses can be found at http://odar.ba.ssa.gov/hq-components/ocalj/field-staff-listings/.
In the text of the email, OAO staff will include the name and Social Security number involved, noting whether the hearing recording is missing or inaudible. If the case is designated critical, OAO staff will also include that information in the email.
2. Documenting the Request
OAO staff will add a remark in ARPS that indicates the date OAO requested the recording (and from whom), update the ARPS status code to DACP, and diary the case for 30 days (10 days for critical cases). For instructions on creating a diary, see the ARPS Training Manual Descriptions, Module 6. Adding a remark is necessary so the Appeals Council can evaluate OAO's attempts to obtain the recording before determining whether a remand for that reason is appropriate.
The hearing office can occasionally fix an inaudible hearing recording with a systems correction but this action may require up to 30 days to coordinate the changes with headquarters components. If, in an electronic claim(s) file, the hearing office sends a CD of the hearing recording to the branch, the branch will forward the CD to the Executive Director's Office (EDO). The EDO will work with the Division of Electronic Services to see if the recording can be associated with the record.
3. Follow Up Procedures (if necessary)
OAO staff will send a follow up email if the hearing recording is not received when the diary expires and the hearing office has not already indicated it cannot find or fix the hearing recording. If the recording is not received within 5 working days of the follow up email, the branch chief will annotate the Claims File Search Checklist (see HALLEX I-3-1-26) and add the completed checklist to the private section of the claim(s) file for review by the Appeals Council. A remand order can then be prepared.
A remand is generally not appropriate if the hearing office is communicating with OAO staff. However, if an unreasonable amount of time passes and OAO staff has been unable to resolve the issue, OAO staff should ask the EDO at ¦¦¦ODAR OAO for further assistance. Likewise, if OAO staff finds a pattern of non-responsiveness from a particular hearing office, it should also notify the EDO.
C. Hearing Office Notifies OAO of Omissions or Inaudible Hearing Recording
If the hearing office becomes aware of omissions in the hearing recording or that the hearing recording is inaudible before OAO has identified the issue, hearing office staff may request that the Appeals Council return jurisdiction to the hearing office to correct the issue. For hearing office instructions, see HALLEX I-2-6-46 C.2. The Appeals Council will follow its usual procedures to process a remand for a missing hearing recording.