I-2-8-3.Social Security Rulings and Acquiescence Rulings
Last Update: 9/2/05 (Transmittal I-2-63)
A. Social Security Rulings (SSRs)
SSRs are published under the authority of the Commissioner of Social Security. They make available to the public a series of precedential decisions relating to Federal old-age, survivors, disability, supplemental security income, and black lung programs. SSRs may be based on case decisions made at all administrative levels of adjudication, Federal court decisions, Commissioner's decisions, Office of the General Counsel opinions, and other policy interpretations of the law and regulations. SSRs are first published in the Federal Register. SSRs are effective upon publication, and the effective date is shown on the first page of each SSR. Although SSRs do not have the force and effect of the law and regulations, they are binding on all SSA components and are to be relied upon as precedents in adjudicating other cases (20 CFR § 402.35(b)(1)). An SSR may be superseded, modified, or revoked by later legislation, regulations, court decisions, or rulings. SSRs may be accessed by going to http://policynet.ba.ssa.gov/repository/rulings/index.html.
B. Social Security Acquiescence Rulings (ARs)
ARs are published under the authority of the Commissioner of Social Security. They are first published in the Federal Register and are effective upon publication. The effective date is shown on the first page of each AR. ARs may be accessed by going to http://policynet.ba.ssa.gov/repository/rulings/index.html.
ARs explain how SSA will apply United States Court of Appeals (circuit court) holdings which conflict with SSA's interpretation of a provision of the Social Security Act or regulations. SSA will apply the circuit court holding as explained in the AR to other cases in the same circuit where the issues involved are the same.
The regulations setting forth the Commissioner's acquiescence policy and procedures (20 CFR §§ 404.985 and 416.1485) provide that claimants who receive determinations or decisions during the period of time between the date an adverse circuit court decision is issued and the date SSA publishes an AR in the Federal Register have the right, under the readjudication procedures provided in the regulations, to request application of the published ruling to the determination or decision in his or her case. The individual must first demonstrate that application of the ruling could change the prior determination or decision.
When a claimant or representative claims that a circuit court holding applies to the facts in the claimant's case, the ALJ (or designee) must first determine whether an AR has been published, and then take the following actions:
1. AR Has Been Published
If an AR has been published, the ALJ must obtain a copy and apply it. The ALJ should consult published ARs for the circuit where the claimant resides.
2. AR Has Not Been Published
If an AR has not been published, the ALJ must determine whether publication of an AR is under active consideration.
a. Publication of an AR Is Not Under Active Consideration
If an AR has not been published, and publication is not under active consideration, the ALJ will use the following or similar language to explain why the court's decision does not apply:
(The claimant/The claimant's representative) has stated that the Circuit's recent decision in ______ v._______ should be applied in this case and requires a finding that_____________ . Pursuant to the regulations (20 CFR §(§) 404.985 and/or 416.1485), if SSA determines that a circuit court holding conflicts with SSA's interpretation of a provision of the Social Security Act or regulations and the Government does not seek further review or is unsuccessful on further review, SSA will issue a Social Security Acquiescence Ruling (AR). If SSA has not issued an AR, it will apply its interpretation of the law and regulations.
SSA has not published an AR in _______________. Accordingly, SSA's interpretation of the law and regulations applies.
b. Publication of an AR Is Under Active Consideration
If an AR has not been published, but publication is under active consideration, the ALJ will substitute the following or similar language for the language in the second paragraph in section a., above, to inform the claimant of his or her rights in the event that an AR is published later:
SSA has not published an AR in ________________ . Accordingly, SSA's interpretation of the law and regulations applies.
ARs are generally effective on the date of publication in the Federal Register, and will apply to all determinations and decisions made by SSA within the same circuit on or after that date. If SSA publishes an AR at some future date, pursuant to 20 CFR §[§] 404.985 [and/or] 416.1485, the claimant may request application of the published ruling to this case under the readjudication procedures provided in the regulations. The claimant must first demonstrate that application of the published ruling could change the decision.
HO staff needing assistance in determining whether an AR has been published or is under active consideration, or in obtaining a copy of a published AR, should contact the Regional Office (RO). RO staff needing assistance should contact the Office of the Chief ALJ's Division of Field Practices and Procedures (DFPP).
An ALJ should not delay his or her action(s) in a case to await publication of an AR unless an AR will be published within a reasonably short period, e.g., SSA has sent the final AR to the Federal Register for printing and publication is expected within a week.
For procedures to apply to the claims of New York disability claimants who are covered by the court-approved settlement in Steiberger v. Sullivan, consult I-5-4-13.