I-3-9-95.Administrative Law Judge Requests Clarification of Remand Order
Last Update: 6/5/15 (Transmittal I-3-115)
An administrative law judge (ALJ) may seek clarification of an Appeals Council (AC) remand order only when the ALJ cannot carry out the directive(s) set forth in the order, or the directive(s) appears to have been rendered moot. ALJs may not seek clarification of AC remand orders under any other circumstances.
There are two types of clarification requests: expedited clarification requests and formal clarification requests. Expedited clarification requests are used when the sole reason for remand is a missing claims folder, missing recording, or both, and the folder, recording, or both are subsequently found. Formal clarification requests apply in all other circumstances.
The term “missing recording” also encompasses inaudible recordings. If a case is remanded solely because the hearing recording is inaudible, but the recording is later found to be completely audible, the expedited clarification process may be used.
For more information about the clarification process at the hearing level, see Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law manual (HALLEX) I-2-1-85. If the AC remand order is pursuant to a Federal court order, the instructions in HALLEX I-4-9-10 apply.
B. Notification From ALJ of Request for Clarification
Prepare a written request to the AC confirming that the Chief Administrative Law Judge approved the request for clarification;
If making a formal clarification request, notify the claimant and representative, if any, of the request and associate the correspondence with the claim(s) file;
Send the approved clarification request to the AC via email to ODAR OAO; and
Wait for a response from the AC.
If the claim(s) file is paper and the ALJ is requesting formal clarification, the ALJ will not send the claim(s) file until the AC requests the claim(s) file. If the claim(s) file is paper and the ALJ is requesting expedited clarification, the ALJ will send the claim(s) file to the AC when making the request.
The Executive Director's Office (EDO) in the Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) is responsible for evaluating all requests for clarification at the AC level. After the EDO has reviewed a request for clarification, the EDO will add a Remark in the Appeals Review Processing System (ARPS) and provide further instruction to the branch with jurisdiction. If it is unclear whether the EDO has evaluated a request for clarification, the branch will contact the EDO for further instructions by sending an email to ODAR OAO.
The EDO will respond to the ALJ's request for clarification as soon as possible after receiving the request. The EDO may either deny the request for clarification or take the necessary action to process the request.
C. EDO Actions
1. Denying a Request for Clarification
The EDO will deny a request for clarification if the request does not meet one of the criteria for clarification, i.e., the ALJ cannot carry out the directive(s) set forth in the order, or the directive(s) appears to have been rendered moot. When neither criterion is met, the EDO will send a memorandum to the ALJ, denying the request for clarification. The EDO will also send a copy of the memorandum to the claimant, the representative (if any), and the Chief Administrative Law Judge (Attention: Director, Division of Field Procedures). When a formal clarification is involved, the EDO will also send a copy to the Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge. If a paper claim(s) file was sent to the AC, the EDO will also return the claim(s) file to the ALJ.
The AC cannot accept a request for clarification once an ALJ has held a new hearing.
The EDO may also return a case if either of the following applies:
The record does not show that the ALJ notified the claimant and representative, if any, of the request. However, the EDO will not return a case for this reason if the EDO has another reason for denying the request for clarification.
The ALJ did not receive the necessary approvals to submit a clarification request.
In either case, the EDO may either reply directly to the ALJ with a copy to the Chief Administrative Law Judge, or refer the case to the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (OCALJ) for further action.
2. Granting a Request for Clarification
If the EDO determines clarification is appropriate, the EDO will take the following actions.
a. Vacate the Remand Order
The EDO will prepare an order vacating the remand order for the signature of the Executive Director, or his or her designee, using the template in the Document Generation System. Once the vacate order is signed, the EDO will associate the order with the claim(s) file, and mail the vacate order to the claimant and representative, if any.
b. Notify the Hearing Office
Once the remand order is vacated, the EDO must immediately notify the hearing office (HO) with jurisdiction over the case. The EDO will generally notify the HO by replying to the original email requesting clarification. In the reply, the EDO will inform the HO that a vacate order has been issued and associated with the record. If the claim(s) file is paper, the EDO will attach a scanned copy of the vacate order to the email.
The EDO will also ask the HO to close the hearing level case in the Case Processing and Management System (CPMS) as soon as possible. If the hearing level case is not closed in CPMS within a reasonable period of time, the EDO will contact OCALJ for further assistance. Once the case is closed in CPMS, the EDO will reactivate the request for review in ARPS.
c. Notify the Branch Chief
The EDO will also notify the branch chief in the branch with jurisdiction over the claim(s) that the claim is reinstated. The EDO will document in the remarks section in ARPS that the case has been returned to the branch for processing. If a paper file is involved, the EDO will forward the claim(s) file to the branch chief.
D. Branch Actions
When a remand order is vacated, a claimant is given 20 days to provide further comment to the AC.
The branch chief will assign the case as soon as possible after the 20-day diary has expired, and the analyst will review the reinstated request for review in accordance with HALLEX I-3-1. As applicable, the analysis should include any information submitted by the claimant or representative in response to the vacate order. The analyst will recommend an action and prepare a new action document.