I-2-6-1.Hearings — General

Last Update: 7/28/15 (Transmittal I-2-146)

As authorized in sections 205(b) and 1631(c) of the Social Security Act (Act), and as set forth in 20 CFR 404.929 and 416.1429, if a claimant is dissatisfied with one of the determinations or decisions listed in 20 CFR 404.930 or 416.1430, he or she may request a hearing. The Commissioner of Social Security has delegated to administrative law judges (ALJ) the authority to hold hearings and issue decisions. See also Hearings, Appeals and Litigation Law (HALLEX) manual I-2-0-2.

NOTE:

While a claimant must request a hearing to continue through the administrative process, he or she can also waive the right to appear at the hearing. See 20 CFR 404.929 and 416.1429. For more information regarding a waiver of the right to appear at the hearing, see 20 CFR 404.948(b), 416.1448(b), 404.950(b), 416.1450(b), and HALLEX I-2-1-45 E. See also Social Security Ruling 79-19, Titles II, XVI, and XVIII: Waiver of Personal Appearance At A Hearing. However, even if all parties waive the right to appear at a hearing, the ALJ may still notify them of the time and place of the hearing if the ALJ finds that a personal appearance and testimony by a party to the hearing is necessary to decide the case. For more information, see 20 CFR 404.950(b), 416.1450(b), and HALLEX I-2-1-45 E.3.

The Act also requires that the Commissioner provide the claimant with reasonable notice of a hearing. Requirements for the notice of hearing are set forth in 20 CFR 404.938, 405.316(a), and 416.1438, and detailed instructions for ALJs and hearing offices can be found in HALLEX I-2-3-15.

ALJs will conduct administrative hearings in a fair and impartial manner. As explained in 20 CFR 404.944 and 416.1444, the ALJ will look fully into the issues, question the claimant and any witnesses, and accept as evidence any documents that are material to the issues. Under the same regulations, the hearing is open to the claimant and to other persons the ALJ considers necessary and proper.

The ALJ must ensure that the claimant understands how the ALJ will conduct the hearing, and the general and specific issues on which findings will be made. To accomplish this goal, ALJ hearings generally follow the same format, as follows:

  • An introduction (see HALLEX I-2-6-50);

  • An opening statement (see HALLEX I-2-6-52);

  • An oath or affirmation (see HALLEX I-2-6-54);

  • Adducing the evidence (see HALLEX I-2-6-56);

  • Receipt of oral testimony (see HALLEX I-2-6-60);

  • Presentation of written or oral argument (see HALLEX I-2-6-76); and

  • A closing statement (see HALLEX I-2-6-78).