I-2-6-58.Admitting Evidence into the Record at the Hearing

Last Update: 9/2/05 (Transmittal I-2-64)


The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will admit into the record any evidence he or she determines is material to the issues in the case. This may or may not include all of the documents the hearing office (HO) staff has marked and listed as proposed exhibits. (See I-2-1-15, Exhibits; and I-2-1-20, Preparation of Exhibit List.)


The ALJ may admit such evidence into the record, even if it would not be admissible in court under the rules of evidence used by the courts.


Only evidence that is material to the determination of the issues before the ALJ should be admitted. Only material evidence is therefore relevant. 20 CFR §§ 404.1527(a), 416.927(a).


Evidence that is material to a claim for disability, and therefore, relevant, includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Evidence of work activity in the last 15 years.

  • Evidence of the existence of a severe impairment. However, evidence such as dental work, a mammogram that is negative, daily in-patient hospital or nursing records, emergency room visits or doctor records relating to treatment of colds, flu shot records, toothache, rashes and feet fungus and records of the claimant calling in to the doctor for an appointment or documentation of other injuries that have healed in 12 months and have no residuals on the claimant's functioning is not material.

  • Evidence is material if it within 12 months of the alleged onset date under a Title II application for disability insurance benefits, on or after the application date or protective filing date of a Title XVI application claiming disability or is within a prior period covered by a prior application that is subject to reopening. See I-2-9-20.

A. Records of a Prior Hearing and Decision

The ALJ must obtain records of a prior hearing and decision (i.e., the exhibits, exhibit list and decision), and add them to the current list of exhibits. The ALJ must admit any prior hearing records into the record of the current case if they are relevant to the current case or are mentioned at the current hearing. The ALJ must admit any prior records that are mentioned in the current hearing decision. If the ALJ decides not to obtain and admit such prior records into the record of the current case (e.g., the ALJ decides they are not relevant to the current case), he or she must explain at the hearing and in the decision why they are not being admitted.

If the ALJ decides to admit into the record of the current case only some of the exhibits on which a prior hearing decision was based, the ALJ must identify at the hearing and in the hearing decision the prior exhibits that are being admitted into the record and explain why the other exhibits are not being admitted.

In making the determination that a prior decision and administrative record is relevant to the issues in the current hearing, the ALJ should consider Administrative Finality – Reopening and Revising Determinations – General – I-2-9-1 et. seq.

B. Admitting Evidence

Before taking any testimony, the ALJ will make the listed exhibits a part of the record by:

  • obtaining specific acknowledgment that the claimant has examined the exhibits;

  • asking the claimant if there are any objections to admitting the exhibits into the record; and

  • ruling on any objections.


The ALJ may rule on any objections on the record or issue a written ruling after the hearing on any objections raised at the hearing. The written ruling shall be made an exhibit and shall be mailed to the claimant. Post-hearing rulings may also be addressed in the written decision issued by the ALJ.

C. Evidence Submitted at the Hearing

The ALJ may admit additional evidence into the record as the hearing proceeds, including documents the ALJ proposes as exhibits or documents a claimant offers as evidence.

Before admitting any proposed exhibit into the record at the hearing, the ALJ should identify the proposed exhibit and must offer the claimant(s) the opportunity to inspect the exhibit and offer any objections or comments. (See I-2-7-20, I-2-7-30, and I-2-7-35 for instructions on admitting evidence into the record after the hearing.)