I-3-3-3.Error of Law

Last Update: 11/10/15 (Transmittal I-3-127)

For the purpose of evaluating a claim before the Social Security Administration, an error of law is generally defined as a misinterpretation, misapplication, or failure to consider or apply pertinent law(s), regulation(s), Social Security Ruling(s), or an applicable Acquiescence Ruling(s).


While sub-regulatory issuances (including the Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law manual) are not categorized as “law” for this purpose, the Appeals Council will grant review under the “error of law” standard if an administrative law judge (ALJ) does not adhere to sub-regulatory policy or procedure and the ALJ's non-compliance results in a due process violation.


An error of law includes an error on the face of the evidence, as discussed in Social Security Ruling 85-6c, Section 224 (42 U.S.C. 424a) Disability – Reduction of Benefits Due to Receipt of a Lump-Sum Workers' Compensation Settlement – Finality of Decision – Reopening for Error of Law. If the evidence clearly shows the result reached to have been legally erroneous at the time it was reached, then it may be fairly said that “[t]he evidence that was considered in making the determination or decision clearly shows on its face that an error was made.”

Common examples of errors of law include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Not addressing an acceptable medical source opinion in the record;

  • Not adhering to dismissal procedures;

  • Improper evaluation of past relevant work or using incorrect medical-vocational rules;

  • Establishing a period of disability beginning after the date the claimant last met earnings requirements in a title II only claim;

  • Adjudicating one title but not the other in a concurrent claim;

  • Giving improper notice of hearing;

  • Not notifying the claimant of the right to cross-examine witnesses;

  • Not notifying the claimant of the right to representation; and

  • Not ruling on an objection raised at the hearing.