POMS Reference

GN 03103: Hearings (Title II and Entitlement Under Title XVIII)

TN 11 (07-93)

A. Introduction

SSA is committed to providing every claimant and his/her representative fair and unbiased treatment in the handling of all claims by its Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) hearing offices, and ensuring that they are afforded timely opportunities to raise any complaints that they may have about alleged bias or misconduct by ALJs, and to have their complaints investigated.

B. Policy—General

Filing a complaint is not a means to:

  • appeal an unfavorable decision (see GN 03104.000ff for Appeals Council (AC) review procedures),

  • obtain an investigation of alleged misconduct by an ALJ that occurred outside of the hearings and appeals process or was unrelated to the actual adjudication or decision of a case.

    EXAMPLE : Complaints involving alleged misappropriation of government property, or time and attendance violations.

  • request an ALJ to withdraw from hearing a case (a claimant who objects to the ALJ assigned to conduct the hearing must ask the ALJ to withdraw from the hearing in accordance with 20 CFR sections 404.940 and 416.1440).

C. Policy—administrative Appeals Process

Filing a complaint of alleged bias or misconduct and responding to the complaint are not subject to the administrative review process. An individual may file the complaint at any time, and the investigation into his/her complaint confers no appeal rights.

D. Process—alleged ALJ BIAS or Misconduct

An individual alleging ALJ bias or misconduct may file a complaint at any OHO or other SSA office. OHO will promptly notify the complainant and his/her representative (if any), in writing, that it has received the complaint, will investigate the complaint promptly (unless that would disrupt or delay a pending claim), and will inform the complainant of the results of the investigation.

E. Process—initial Inquiry

The appropriate OHO Regional Chief ALJ or his/her designee will conduct an initial inquiry to determine the facts (which will include giving the ALJ named in the complaint the opportunity to comment on the complaint) and forward a report to the Chief ALJ.

The Chief ALJ will decide if the inquiry requires further investigation and, if so, will forward the complaint to the Office of Analytics, Review, and Oversight, Office of Appellate Opertions (OAO) for further investigation.

If the Regional Chief ALJ or Chief ALJ is named in the complaint, OAO, DQS will conduct the initial inquiry.

Following completion of the investigation, OAO will notify the complainant and representative in writing of its results.

F. Procedure—FO

Take the following action.

1. General

Explain the complaint process described above to any individual who alleges ALJ bias or misconduct.

If the individual wishes to file a complaint, assist the individual in preparing the written complaint on Form SSA-795.

If the individual does not wish to file a complaint, take no action.

2. Complaint Content

Include the following information in the complaint and be as detailed as possible:

  • the complainant's name, address, telephone number, and social security number (and, if the individual is making the complaint on behalf of someone else, the name, address, telephone number, and social security number of the individual they are making the complaint for), and

  • a complete description of the action(s) that is the basis for the complaint of alleged bias or misconduct, including the identity of the individual responsible, when the event(s) occurred, and the name, address, and telephone number of any individuals who witnessed the alleged bias or misconduct.

3. Complaint Routing

  • Forward the original complaint (along with any additional relevant information) to the appropriate OHO Regional Chief ALJ.

  • Give one copy to the complainant and, if the complainant is represented, one copy to the representative.

  • Mail one copy to:

    Division of Quality Service
    One Skyline Tower
    5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 1605
    Falls Church, VA 22041

If the individual files the complaint in conjunction with a request for AC review or while a request for AC review is pending, make an additional copy of the complaint and send the copy to the AC with the request for review or to be associated with the pending request for AC review (see GN 03104.000ff).

4. Complaint Filed While Hearing Still Pending

If an individual files a complaint while the case is still pending in the hearing office, notify the complainant and his/her representative (if any) that, in accordance with agency regulations, you may not comment on a pending case, but that you will refer the complaint for investigation.

NOTE: OHO will inform the complainant and his/her representative of the results of the investigation.

5. Complaint Filed After Hearing Decision Or Dismissal Issued

If the individual files a complaint after the ALJ issued a decision or dismissal order, but before expiration of the time for filing a request for review (i.e., within 60 days after the date of receipt of the hearing decision or dismissal order), tell the complainant and his/her representative that he/she may also request AC review and present the complaint to the AC as a basis for granting review.

NOTE : Filing a complaint does not constitute a request for AC review.

If the individual files a request for review, the AC will consider the bias/ misconduct allegations as a part of the request for review and, regardless of the final disposition in the case, inform the complainant and his/her representative of the conclusions with respect to the allegations.

IMPORTANT : If the individual does not present the allegations to the AC as part of a request for review, but files a separate complaint while the case is pending before the AC, the AC will review the complaint as if it had been presented with the request for review.

G. Procedure—TSC

Explain the complaint process and, if the individual wishes to file a complaint:

  • assist the individual in preparing the written complaint as described in F., above;

  • send the original complaint to the individual to sign and forward to the servicing field office (FO); and

If the individual also requests Appeals Council review, advise the FO that you sent an HA-520-U5 with the complaint.

H. Procedure—Additional Information

If you need additional information about the complaint process or have questions about these instructions, contact OAO, DQS at (703) 605-8700, fax (703) 605-8701.