I-4-3-80.Appeals Council Decisions After Court Remand
Last Update: 4/27/16 (Transmittal I-4-51)
Upon review of a court remand order, the Appeals Council (AC) may determine it is possible to comply with the court's instructions without remanding the case to an administrative law judge (ALJ). In other situations, the agency may request the court remand for the limited purpose of having the AC consider a specific issue or aspect of the case.
An AC decision after court remand will generally adhere to the same writing guidelines set forth in Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-3-8-20, with special attention given to any particular issue that needs to be addressed based on the court remand order.
B. Analyst Recommendation to Issue a Decision
When recommending a decision after court remand, an analyst must explain in his or her analysis of the case how the facts of the case satisfy all of the court's instructions. If the analyst is recommending a fully favorable decision or the claimant has agreed to a certain decision in a formal written stipulation adopted in the court remand order, the analyst will prepare a decision in final form for review by the AC.
If the decision is favorable, either the analyst or designated staff must handle any issues relating to an appointed representative's fee agreement, including preparing an order approving or disapproving the fee agreement for the AC's review. For more information on reviewing fee agreements, see HALLEX I-1-2-11 and I-2-1-12.
However, if the analyst recommends a partially favorable decision (where there is no written stipulation in the court remand order) or an unfavorable decision, the AC must provide the claimant an opportunity to comment and submit additional information before issuing its action. Therefore, the analyst will prepare a notice of proposed action in final form for the AC to review. (For more information on interim notices, see generally HALLEX I-3-8-10). When an analyst recommends a partially favorable decision, the analyst will not prepare a remand order for the unfavorable portion of the period at issue, or indicate on the draft interim notice that the unfavorable portion of the case will be remanded if the court order did not specify that the case be remanded back to an ALJ for an opportunity for another hearing. Rather, the AC will affirm the findings of the unfavorable portion in the decision. After the time period for submitting comments and additional information expires, the analyst will address any additional comments or information in his or her analysis and prepare the appropriate action document with language that addresses the comments or information, if received.
If the agency stipulated to a court remand to take a specific action, an analysis or recommendation may be brief or unnecessary. Instead, the analyst will prepare, in final form, the letter or decision agreed upon.
In some cases, the AC may develop an issue in order to avoid an unnecessary remand to an ALJ. For more information, see generally HALLEX I-4-3-83.
C. AC Action
At least two administrative appeals judges (AAJ) must sign an AC decision. The “A” member AAJ is also responsible for acting on any fee agreement issues associated with a favorable decision, when applicable. See generally HALLEX I-1-2-33.
If the AC wants modifications to the draft decision or does not agree that a decision is appropriate, the AC will usually return the case to the analyst to make appropriate modifications or to prepare another recommendation.
D. Releasing the Decision
Court Case Preparation and Review Branch (CCPRB) staff will make all necessary entries in the Appeals Review Processing System to close out the case. CCPRB staff will also ensure the decision and fee agreement order (if applicable) are sent to the claimant and appointed representative, if any.
Generally, no further action by CCPRB staff is required after release of the decision. However, if the AC issues an unfavorable decision on a sentence six remand (see generally HALLEX I-4-3-1), CCPRB staff will initiate the preparation of a supplemental certified administrative record (CAR). For more information on preparing a supplemental CAR, see HALLEX I-4-1-50 and I-4-1-58 C.
If the AC issues a favorable decision in a sentence six case, and the claimant or the claimant's counsel notifies the agency that the claimant will continue the litigation, staff will initiate the preparation of a supplemental CAR. For more information about sentence six cases, see generally HALLEX I-4-3-1.