I-3-1-12.Screening for Hearing Recording
Last Update: 5/26/17 (Transmittal I-3-157)
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 (HO) 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 that 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), there is generally 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 HO procedures for handling hearing recordings in a paper claim(s) file are set forth in HALLEX I-2-8-50.
On receipt of a request for review involving a paper claim(s) file, OAO staff will ensure that a copy of the hearing recording is properly associated with the claim(s) file. If a copy of the hearing recording is not associated with the claim(s) file, see subsection B below.
B. Hearing Recording Is Missing or Inaudible
If OAO staff screening a hearing recording determines that the recording is missing or inaudible, staff will take the following actions when appropriate, or take the necessary actions to refer the case to a branch chief for resolution. In a paper claim(s) file, when a hearing recording is missing or inaudible, OAO staff will first attempt to access the recording through eView.
1. Contacting the Hearing Office
If the recording is not in eView, OAO staff will send an email to the HO with the subject line “Missing or Inaudible Hearing Recording.” In the body of the email, OAO staff will include the claimant's name and social security number, the date of the hearing, and the name of the adjudicator. As necessary, OAO staff will document such actions on the Claim(s) File and Hearing Recording Search Checklist (see HALLEX I-3-1-26). To find an HO's general email address, OAO staff may:
Type ^OHO [region number] into the global address list and locate the appropriate HO. For example, to locate the Boston HO email address, type in ^OHO 01 in the global address list and locate the Boston HO;
Search in the staff listings on the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge intranet site; or
For National Hearing Centers, use the general email address ¦¦¦OHO OCALJ NHC (name of NHC location).
In the text of the email, OAO staff will include: the claimant's name and Social Security number, the date of the hearing and the name of the adjudicator, and whether the hearing recording is missing or inaudible. If the case is designated critical, OAO staff will also include that information in the email.
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 make a follow-up call. OAO staff will document any actions taken in a remark in the Appeals Review Processing System (ARPS).
2. Documenting the Request
OAO staff will add a remark in ARPS that documents the date OAO requested the recording (and from whom), update the ARPS status code to Diary Action Pending (DACP), and diary the case for 14 days (10 days for critical cases). For instructions on creating a diary, see the ARPS Training Manual, Module 6 – Case Diary. Adding a remark is necessary so that the Appeals Council (AC) can evaluate OAO's attempts to obtain the recording before determining whether a remand for that reason is appropriate.
The HO 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. In these instances, OAO staff will instead diary the case in ARPS for 30 days. If, in an electronic claim(s) file, the HO sends a compact disc (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 associate the recording with the record.
3. Follow-Up Procedures (if necessary)
OAO staff will send a follow-up email (or, in critical cases, make a follow-up call) if the hearing recording is not received when the diary expires, and the HO has not indicated that it cannot find or fix the hearing recording. After sending the follow-up email (or, in critical cases, making the follow-up call), OAO staff will diary the case again. If the recording is not received within 14 working days of the follow-up email (or within 10 working days of the follow-up call for critical cases), OAO staff will confer with the branch chief. Ultimately, if the recording cannot be located, the branch chief will annotate the Claim(s) File and Hearing Recording 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 AC. A remand order can then be prepared.
A remand is generally not appropriate if the HO 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 for further assistance by emailing ^DCARO OAO. Likewise, if OAO staff finds a pattern of non-responsiveness from a particular HO, it should also notify the EDO at the same email address.
C. HO Notifies OAO of Omissions or Inaudible Hearing Recording
If the HO becomes aware of omissions in the hearing recording or that the hearing recording is inaudible before OAO has identified the issue, HO staff may request that the AC return jurisdiction to the HO to correct the issue. For HO instructions, see HALLEX I-2-6-46 C.2. The AC will follow its usual procedures to issue a remand for an inaudible hearing recording.