I-4-6-1.Court Remand Orders — General

Last Update: 12/16/20 (Transmittal I-4-84)

A. Magistrate Proceedings

In some circumstances, a Federal district court judge will refer Social Security cases to a magistrate judge who conducts proceedings, issues orders on non-dispositive matters, and prepares a report and recommendation for a district court judge as to the final disposition of the case. A district court judge may accept, reject, or modify the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. The district court judge will sign or initial a dispositive order of the court, e.g., remanding the case to the Commissioner.

In other circumstances, both parties may stipulate (i.e., agree in writing) that the magistrate judge will conduct all proceedings, including issuing the court's final disposition of the case. In those cases, only the magistrate judge will sign the order and judgment, if necessary, of the court.

B. Remands From a Federal Court

A Federal district court or court of appeals may remand a case for additional administrative action. The court may issue the remand order on its own motion, on the motion of the Commissioner or the plaintiff, or on the joint motion or stipulation of both parties. Courts of appeals generally remand to the district court with directions to remand the case to the Commissioner. Occasionally, however, courts of appeals remand cases directly to the Commissioner.

In Schaefer v. Shalala, 509 U.S. 292, 296 (1993), the Supreme Court explained that a district court may remand a case to the Commissioner only as provided in sentence four or sentence six of section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. 405(g).

1. Sentence Four Remands

Under sentence four of section 205(g) of the Act, a court may remand a case in conjunction with a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner. The court's judgment ends the court's jurisdiction over the case, but either the claimant or the agency may appeal the district court's action to a court of appeals. The appeal time for seeking review by a court of appeals begins on the date the district court enters its judgment. See Forney v. Apfel, 524 U.S. 266 (1998).

If the claimant or the agency does not appeal the court's judgment, the Appeals Council (AC) may remand the case to an administrative law judge (ALJ), or, if not precluded by the remand order, issue its own decision. The AC may also dismiss the proceedings for any reason that an ALJ may dismiss a request for a hearing under 20 CFR 404.957 or 416.1457 (see 20 CFR 404.983(d) and 416.1483(d)). Once a decision becomes the Commissioner's final decision after remand, the claimant can file a new complaint with the district court to challenge the agency's new final decision.

2. Sentence Six Remands

A Federal court will remand under sentence six of section 205(g) of the Act in two situations:

  • The Commissioner requests a remand before answering the complaint in a motion that shows good cause for the remand (usually due to procedural issues such as a lost claim(s) file, a missing hearing recording, or a hearing recording that cannot be transcribed); or

  • At any time when there is new and material evidence and there is good cause for failing to incorporate the evidence into the record earlier.

A sentence six remand is issued without a substantive ruling as to the correctness of the Commissioner's decision. For more information, see section 205(g) of the Act. See also Schaefer v. Shalala, 509 U.S. 292, 297 n.2 (1993).

Under sentence six, the court retains jurisdiction of a remanded case and does not enter judgment until after post-remand agency proceedings are completed. Because a sentence six remand is considered an interlocutory (i.e., temporary or interim) order, the action is generally not appealable.

When the administrative action is complete after remand, the claimant is not required to file a new civil action to obtain judicial review. Rather, either the claimant or the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) will advise the court that the remand proceedings are finished and will file a motion to reopen or re-docket the case.

C. Overview of Appeals Council Processing of Remand Orders

When a court issues a remand order, the court dockets the order (and judgment in sentence four cases) and any attachments and notifies the parties. OGC will then notify the appropriate Court Case Preparation and Review Branch (CCPRB) in the Office of Appellate Operations.


When a case requires immediate action, the United States Attorney's Office or OGC may also contact a CCPRB directly and route the remand order using the most expeditious means.

On receipt, a CCPRB analyst will review the remand order. If the analyst can process the remand order without instruction from the AC, the analyst will prepare a standard remand order for release. If the remand order requires AC instruction, an interim action, decision, or dismissal, the analyst will prepare the appropriate action document for AC signature.