Social Security Ruling 19-1p; Titles II and XVI: Effect of the Decision in Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) On Cases Pending at the Appeals Council, 9582-9584 [2019-04817]

Download as PDF 9582 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 51 / Friday, March 15, 2019 / Notices [FR Doc. 2019–04800 Filed 3–14–19; 8:45 am] SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION [Disaster Declaration #15890 and #15891; Alabama Disaster Number AL–00094] Presidential Declaration of a Major Disaster for the State of Alabama U.S. Small Business Administration. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: This is a Notice of the Presidential declaration of a major disaster for the State of Alabama (FEMA–4419–DR), dated 03/05/2019. Incident: Severe Storms, Straight-line Winds, and Tornadoes. Incident Period: 03/03/2019. DATES: Issued on 03/05/2019. Physical Loan Application Deadline Date: 05/06/2019. Economic Injury (EIDL) Loan Application Deadline Date: 12/05/2019. ADDRESS: Submit completed loan applications to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: A. Escobar, Office of Disaster Assistance, U.S. Small Business Administration, 409 3rd Street SW, Suite 6050, Washington, DC 20416, (202) 205–6734. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Notice is hereby given that as a result of the President’s major disaster declaration on 03/05/2019, applications for disaster loans may be filed at the address listed above or other locally announced locations. The following areas have been determined to be adversely affected by the disaster: Primary Counties (Physical Damage and Economic Injury Loans): Lee Contiguous Counties (Economic Injury Loans Only): Alabama: Chambers, Macon, Russell, Tallapoosa. Georgia: Harris, Muscogee. The Interest Rates are: SUMMARY: amozie on DSK9F9SC42PROD with NOTICES Percent For Physical Damage: Homeowners with Credit Available Elsewhere ...................... Homeowners without Credit Available Elsewhere .............. Businesses with Credit Available Elsewhere ...................... Businesses without Credit Available Elsewhere .............. Non-Profit Organizations with Credit Available Elsewhere ... VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Mar 14, 2019 security income, and special veterans benefits programs. We may base SSRs Non-Profit Organizations withon determinations or decisions made at out Credit Available Elseall levels of administrative adjudication, where ..................................... 2.750 Federal court decisions, Commissioner’s For Economic Injury: decisions, opinions of the Office of the Businesses & Small Agricultural General Counsel, or other Cooperatives without Credit Available Elsewhere .............. 4.000 interpretations of the law and regulations. Non-Profit Organizations withAlthough SSRs do not have the same out Credit Available Elsewhere ..................................... 2.750 force and effect as statutes or regulations, they are binding on all The number assigned to this disaster components of the Social Security for physical damage is 15890C and for Administration. 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1). economic injury is 158910. This SSR will remain in effect until we publish a notice in the Federal (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Register that rescinds it, or we publish Number 59008) a new SSR that replaces or modifies it. Percent BILLING CODE 8011–01–C 4.125 Rafaela Monchek, Acting Associate Administrator for Disaster Assistance. [FR Doc. 2019–04939 Filed 3–14–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 8025–01–P SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION [Docket No. SSA–2019–0001] Social Security Administration. Notice of Social Security Ruling AGENCY: (SSR). We are giving notice of SSR 19–1p. This ruling explains how we will adjudicate cases pending at the Appeals Council in which the claimant has raised a timely challenge to the appointment of an administrative law judge (ALJ) under the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution in light of the Supreme Court’s recent 2018 decision in Lucia v. SEC. DATES: We will apply this notice on March 15, 2019. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nancy Chung, Office of Appellate Operations, 5107 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, Virginia, (703) 605–7100. For information on eligibility or filing for benefits, call our national toll-free number 1–800–772–1213, or TTY 1–800–325–0778, or visit our internet site, Social Security online, at http:// www.socialsecurity.gov. SUMMARY: Although 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(1) and (a)(2) do not 2.063 require us to publish this SSR, we are 8.000 doing so under 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1). Through SSRs, we make available to 4.000 the public precedential decisions relating to the Federal old-age, 2.750 survivors, disability, supplemental Jkt 247001 SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: PO 00000 Frm 00107 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. Policy Interpretation Ruling Social Security Ruling 19–1p; Titles II and XVI: Effect of the Decision in Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) On Cases Pending at the Appeals Council ACTION: (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Program Nos. 96.001, Social Security— Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security—Retirement Insurance; 96.004— Social Security—Survivors Insurance; 96.006 Supplemental Security Income.) Social Security Ruling (SSR) 19–1p Titles II and XVI: Effect of the Decision in Lucia V. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Cases Pending at the Appeals Council Purpose: This ruling explains how we will adjudicate cases pending at the Appeals Council in which the claimant has raised a timely challenge to the appointment of an administrative law judge (ALJ) under the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Lucia v. SEC, 138 S. Ct. 2044 (2018). Citations: 20 CFR 404.970, 404.976(b), 416.1470, and 416.1476(b). Background: In Lucia, the Supreme Court considered a challenge to the manner in which the SEC appointed its ALJs. The Supreme Court held that the SEC’s ALJs are ‘‘Officers of the United States’’ within the meaning of the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. II, § 2, cl. 2.1 As a result, the SEC’s ALJs should have been (but were not) appointed to their positions by either the President, a court of law, or the Department head. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision finding that the SEC’s ALJs were not inferior officers. Having determined that Lucia had raised a timely challenge to the ALJ’s 1 The Supreme Court explained in Lucia that ‘‘[t]he Appointments Clause prescribes the exclusive means of appointing ‘Officers.’ Only the President, a court of law, or a head of department can do so. See Art. II, § 2, cl. 2.’’ Lucia v. SEC, 138 S. Ct. 2044, 2051 (2018). E:\FR\FM\15MRN1.SGM 15MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 51 / Friday, March 15, 2019 / Notices appointment, the Supreme Court remanded the case for a new hearing before a properly appointed ALJ who had not previously heard the case, or before the SEC itself.2 The Supreme Court’s decision in Lucia did not specifically address the constitutional status of ALJs who work in other Federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration (SSA). To address any Appointments Clause questions involving Social Security claims, and consistent with guidance from the Department of Justice, on July 16, 2018 the Acting Commissioner of Social Security ratified the appointments of our ALJs and approved those appointments as her own.3 On the same day, the Acting Commissioner took the same actions with respect to the administrative appeals judges (AAJs) who work at the Appeals Council.4 We are issuing this SSR to explain how the Appeals Council will adjudicate appeals in which the claimant timely raises an Appointments Clause challenge to the authority of the ALJ who decided or dismissed a claim. Policy Interpretation: We receive millions of applications for benefits each year.5 The essential requirement for any system of administrative review in a program as large and complex as ours is that it ‘‘must be fair—and it must work.’’ 6 In adjudicating the millions of claims we receive each year, we strive to balance the two overriding concerns of fairness and efficiency, consistent with the law. The Social Security system must be fair and accurate and provide each claimant with appropriate due process protections. At the same time, the Supreme Court has recognized that we must make decisions efficiently in order to ensure that the system continues to work and serve the American people.7 Because we employ more ALJs than all other Federal agencies combined, and our ALJs issue hundreds of thousands of decisions 2 Lucia v. SEC, 138 S. Ct. at 2055. Social Security Emergency Message (EM) 18003 REV 2, § B (available at: https://secure. ssa.gov/apps10/reference.nsf/links/0806201802102 5PM). 4 Id. 5 In fiscal year 2017, we completed 5.62 million retirement and survivors insurance claims and 2.485 million initial disability claims. We also received 620,000 hearing requests, and completed 686,000 hearings. FY 2019 Congressional Justification, at 6 (available at: https://www.ssa.gov/ budget/FY19Files/2019CJ.pdf). 6 Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 399 (1971). 7 For example, in Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 28–29 (2003), the Supreme Court stated that, ‘‘As we have observed, ‘[t]he Social Security hearing system is probably the largest adjudicative system in the western world.’ . . . The need for efficiency is self-evident.’ ’’ (quoting Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458, 461 n.2 (1983)). amozie on DSK9F9SC42PROD with NOTICES 3 See VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Mar 14, 2019 Jkt 247001 each year, Lucia has the potential to significantly affect our hearings and appeals process. To properly address the issues Lucia raises in the context of our hearings and appeals system, we have determined that some claimants are entitled to additional administrative review of their claims. A claimant who is dissatisfied with an ALJ’s decision, or the dismissal of a request for a hearing, may request that the Appeals Council review the decision or dismissal. Under our regulations, the Appeals Council will review a case if: (1) There appears to be an abuse of discretion by the ALJ; (2) there is an error of law; (3) the ALJ’s action, findings or conclusions are not supported by substantial evidence; (4) there is a broad policy or procedural issue that may affect the general public interest; or (5) the Appeals Council receives additional evidence that the claimant shows is new, material, and relates to the period on or before the date of the ALJ hearing decision, and there is a reasonable probability that the evidence would change the outcome of the decision.8 We interpret some challenges to the ALJ’s authority to hear and decide a claim, based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Lucia, as raising ‘‘a broad policy or procedural issue that may affect the general public interest’’ within the meaning of our regulations. Challenges to an ALJ’s authority to decide a claim may raise a broadly applicable procedural issue independent of the merits of the individual claim for benefits—that is, whether the ALJ who presided over the claimant’s hearing was properly appointed under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. We will process requests for review that include a timely administrative challenge to the ALJ’s authority based on the Appointments Clause in the manner described below. The Appeals Council will grant the claimant’s request for review in cases where the claimant: (1) Timely requests Appeals Council review of an ALJ’s decision or dismissal issued before July 16, 2018; and (2) raises before us (either at the Appeals Council level, or previously had raised at the ALJ level) a challenge under the Appointments Clause to the authority of the ALJ who issued the decision or dismissal in the case. When the Appeals Council grants review based on a timely-raised Appointments Clause challenge, AAJs 8 20 PO 00000 CFR 404.970(a) and (b), 416.1470(a) and (b). Frm 00108 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 9583 who have been appointed by the Acting Commissioner (or whose appointments the Acting Commissioner has ratified) will vacate the hearing decision or dismissal.9 In cases in which the ALJ made a decision, the Appeals Council will conduct a new and independent review of the claims file and either remand the case to an ALJ other than the ALJ who issued the decision under review, or issue its own new decision about the claim covering the period before the date of the ALJ’s decision. In its review, the Appeals Council will not presume that the prior hearing decision was correct.10 In cases in which the ALJ dismissed a request for a hearing, the Appeals Council will vacate the ALJ’s dismissal order.11 It will then either: (1) Decide whether the request for a hearing should be dismissed, or (2) remand the case to another ALJ to determine that issue. When the Appeals Council grants a claimant’s request for review in cases that raise a timely Appointments Clause challenge, the claimant may request a reasonable opportunity to file briefs or other written statements about the facts and law relevant to the case.12 Our regulations also allow a claimant to request to appear before the Appeals Council to present oral argument.13 If the Appeals Council decides that the case raises an important question of law or policy, or that oral argument would help to reach the proper result, the Appeals Council will grant the request to appear. If the Appeals Council grants a request to appear and holds oral argument, it will notify the claimant and his or her representative about the time and place at least 10 days before the 9 Under our regulations, whenever the Appeals Council reviews a hearing decision under 20 CFR 404.967, 404.969, 416.1467, or 416.1469, and the claimant does not appear personally or through representation before the Appeals Council to present oral argument, the Appeals Council’s review will be conducted by a panel of not less than two members of the Appeals Council designated in the manner prescribed by the Chairman or Deputy Chairman of the Council. In the event of disagreement between a panel composed of only two members, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman, or his or her delegate, who must be a member of the Council, shall participate as a third member of the panel. When the claimant appears in person or through representation before the Appeals Council, the review will be conducted by a panel of not less than three members of the Council designated in the manner prescribed by the Chairman or Deputy Chairman. Concurrence of a majority of a panel shall constitute the decision of the Appeals Council unless the case is considered by the Appeals Council en banc or as a representative body, as provided in 20 CFR 422.205. See 20 CFR 422.205(b). 10 20 CFR 404.979, 416.1479. 11 20 CFR 404.960(a), 416.1460(a). 12 20 CFR 404.975, 416.1475. 13 20 CFR 404.976(b), 416.1476(b). E:\FR\FM\15MRN1.SGM 15MRN1 9584 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 51 / Friday, March 15, 2019 / Notices date scheduled for the appearance.14 The Appeals Council will determine whether the appearance, or the appearance of any other person relevant to the proceeding, will be in person, by video teleconferencing, or by telephone.15 When the Appeals Council grants a request for review, it will mail a notice to all parties at their last known address stating the reasons for the review and the issues to be considered.16 Consistent with our regulations, the Appeals Council will consider all the evidence in the ALJ hearing record, as well as additional evidence subject to the limitations on Appeals Council consideration of additional evidence in 20 CFR 404.970 and 416.1470. The Appeals Council will also consider any arguments the claimant or representative made in writing or at the hearing and will also consider any additional arguments submitted to it. The Appeals Council will either remand the case to a different ALJ; issue a new, independent decision; or, as appropriate, issue an order dismissing the request for a hearing. When the Appeals Council issues a decision, its decision may result in different findings from the ALJ hearing decision that the Appeals Council vacated.17 When the Appeals Council grants review and issues its own decision, its decision will be based on the preponderance of the evidence.18 [FR Doc. 2019–04817 Filed 3–14–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4191–02–P DEPARTMENT OF STATE [Public Notice: 10684] 30-Day Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Application Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Notice of request for public comment and submission to OMB of proposed collection of information. ACTION: The Department of State has submitted the information collection described below to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval. In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 we are requesting comments on this collection from all interested individuals and organizations. The amozie on DSK9F9SC42PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: 14 Id. 15 Id. 16 20 CFR 404.973, 416.1473 17 20 CFR 404.979, 416.1479. 18 Id. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Mar 14, 2019 Jkt 247001 purpose of this Notice is to allow 30 days for public comment. DATES: Submit comments directly to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) up to April 15, 2019. ADDRESSES: Direct comments to the Department of State Desk Officer in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). You may submit comments by the following methods: • Email: oira_submission@ omb.eop.gov. You must include the DS form number, information collection title, and the OMB control number in the subject line of your message. • Fax: 202–395–5806. Attention: Desk Officer for Department of State. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Direct requests for additional information regarding the collection listed in this notice, including requests for copies of the proposed collection instrument and supporting documents, to Derek A. Rivers, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Overseas Citizens Services (CA/ OCS/PMO), U.S. Department of State, 2201 C. St. NW, Washington, DC 20522, who may be reached at RiversDA@ state.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: • Title of Information Collection: Application Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. • OMB Control Number: 1405–0076. • Type of Request: Revision of a Currently Approved Collection. • Originating Office: Bureau of Consular Affairs, Overseas Citizens Services (CA/OCS). • Form Number: DS–3013, 3013s. • Respondents: Person seeking return of or access to child. • Estimated Number of Respondents: 565. • Estimated Number of Responses: 565. • Average Time per Response: 60 minutes. • Total Estimated Burden Time: 565 hours • Frequency: On occasion. • Obligation to Respond: Voluntary. We are soliciting public comments to permit the Department to: • Evaluate whether the proposed information collection is necessary for the proper functions of the Department. • Evaluate the accuracy of our estimate of the time and cost burden for this proposed collection, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used. • Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected. • Minimize the reporting burden on those who are to respond, including the PO 00000 Frm 00109 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Please note that comments submitted in response to this Notice are public record. Before including any detailed personal information, you should be aware that your comments as submitted, including your personal information, will be available for public review. Abstract of Proposed Collection The Application Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (DS–3013 and DS 3013–s) is used by parents or legal guardians who are requesting the State Department’s assistance in seeking the return of, or access to, a child or children alleged to have been wrongfully removed from or retained outside of the child’s habitual residence and currently located in another country that is also party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Convention). The application requests information regarding the identities of the applicant, the child or children, and the person alleged to have wrongfully removed or retained the child or children. In addition, the application requires that the applicant provide the circumstances of the alleged wrongful removal or retention and the legal justification for the request for return or access. The State Department, as the U.S. Central Authority for the Convention, uses this information to establish, if possible, the applicants’ claims under the Convention; to inform applicants about available remedies under the Convention; and to provide the information necessary to the foreign Central Authority in its efforts to locate the child or children, and to facilitate return of or access to the child or children pursuant to the Convention. 22 U.S.C. 9008 is the legal authority that permits the Department to gather this information. Methodology The completed form DS–3013 and DS 3013–s may be submitted to the Office of Children’s Issues by mail, by fax, or electronically accessed through www.travel.state.gov. Michelle Bernier-Toth, Managing Director, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State. [FR Doc. 2019–04812 Filed 3–14–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4710–06–P E:\FR\FM\15MRN1.SGM 15MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 51 (Friday, March 15, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 9582-9584]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-04817]


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SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

[Docket No. SSA-2019-0001]


Social Security Ruling 19-1p; Titles II and XVI: Effect of the 
Decision in Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) On Cases 
Pending at the Appeals Council

AGENCY: Social Security Administration.

ACTION: Notice of Social Security Ruling (SSR).

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SUMMARY: We are giving notice of SSR 19-1p. This ruling explains how we 
will adjudicate cases pending at the Appeals Council in which the 
claimant has raised a timely challenge to the appointment of an 
administrative law judge (ALJ) under the Appointments Clause of the 
United States Constitution in light of the Supreme Court's recent 2018 
decision in Lucia v. SEC.

DATES: We will apply this notice on March 15, 2019.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nancy Chung, Office of Appellate 
Operations, 5107 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, Virginia, (703) 605-7100. 
For information on eligibility or filing for benefits, call our 
national toll-free number 1-800-772-1213, or TTY 1-800-325-0778, or 
visit our internet site, Social Security online, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Although 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(1) and (a)(2) do 
not require us to publish this SSR, we are doing so under 20 CFR 
402.35(b)(1).
    Through SSRs, we make available to the public precedential 
decisions relating to the Federal old-age, survivors, disability, 
supplemental security income, and special veterans benefits programs. 
We may base SSRs on determinations or decisions made at all levels of 
administrative adjudication, Federal court decisions, Commissioner's 
decisions, opinions of the Office of the General Counsel, or other 
interpretations of the law and regulations.
    Although SSRs do not have the same force and effect as statutes or 
regulations, they are binding on all components of the Social Security 
Administration. 20 CFR 402.35(b)(1).
    This SSR will remain in effect until we publish a notice in the 
Federal Register that rescinds it, or we publish a new SSR that 
replaces or modifies it.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, Program Nos. 96.001, Social 
Security--Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security--Retirement 
Insurance; 96.004--Social Security--Survivors Insurance; 96.006 
Supplemental Security Income.)

Nancy Berryhill,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security.

Policy Interpretation Ruling

Social Security Ruling (SSR) 19-1p

Titles II and XVI: Effect of the Decision in Lucia V. Securities and 
Exchange Commission (SEC) on Cases Pending at the Appeals Council
    Purpose: This ruling explains how we will adjudicate cases pending 
at the Appeals Council in which the claimant has raised a timely 
challenge to the appointment of an administrative law judge (ALJ) under 
the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution in light of 
the Supreme Court's decision in Lucia v. SEC, 138 S. Ct. 2044 (2018).
    Citations: 20 CFR 404.970, 404.976(b), 416.1470, and 416.1476(b).
    Background: In Lucia, the Supreme Court considered a challenge to 
the manner in which the SEC appointed its ALJs. The Supreme Court held 
that the SEC's ALJs are ``Officers of the United States'' within the 
meaning of the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution, 
Art. II, Sec.  2, cl. 2.\1\ As a result, the SEC's ALJs should have 
been (but were not) appointed to their positions by either the 
President, a court of law, or the Department head. The Supreme Court 
reversed the lower court's decision finding that the SEC's ALJs were 
not inferior officers. Having determined that Lucia had raised a timely 
challenge to the ALJ's

[[Page 9583]]

appointment, the Supreme Court remanded the case for a new hearing 
before a properly appointed ALJ who had not previously heard the case, 
or before the SEC itself.\2\ The Supreme Court's decision in Lucia did 
not specifically address the constitutional status of ALJs who work in 
other Federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration 
(SSA). To address any Appointments Clause questions involving Social 
Security claims, and consistent with guidance from the Department of 
Justice, on July 16, 2018 the Acting Commissioner of Social Security 
ratified the appointments of our ALJs and approved those appointments 
as her own.\3\ On the same day, the Acting Commissioner took the same 
actions with respect to the administrative appeals judges (AAJs) who 
work at the Appeals Council.\4\ We are issuing this SSR to explain how 
the Appeals Council will adjudicate appeals in which the claimant 
timely raises an Appointments Clause challenge to the authority of the 
ALJ who decided or dismissed a claim.
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    \1\ The Supreme Court explained in Lucia that ``[t]he 
Appointments Clause prescribes the exclusive means of appointing 
`Officers.' Only the President, a court of law, or a head of 
department can do so. See Art. II, Sec.  2, cl. 2.'' Lucia v. SEC, 
138 S. Ct. 2044, 2051 (2018).
    \2\ Lucia v. SEC, 138 S. Ct. at 2055.
    \3\ See Social Security Emergency Message (EM) 18003 REV 2, 
Sec.  B (available at: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/reference.nsf/links/08062018021025PM).
    \4\ Id.
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    Policy Interpretation: We receive millions of applications for 
benefits each year.\5\ The essential requirement for any system of 
administrative review in a program as large and complex as ours is that 
it ``must be fair--and it must work.'' \6\ In adjudicating the millions 
of claims we receive each year, we strive to balance the two overriding 
concerns of fairness and efficiency, consistent with the law. The 
Social Security system must be fair and accurate and provide each 
claimant with appropriate due process protections. At the same time, 
the Supreme Court has recognized that we must make decisions 
efficiently in order to ensure that the system continues to work and 
serve the American people.\7\ Because we employ more ALJs than all 
other Federal agencies combined, and our ALJs issue hundreds of 
thousands of decisions each year, Lucia has the potential to 
significantly affect our hearings and appeals process. To properly 
address the issues Lucia raises in the context of our hearings and 
appeals system, we have determined that some claimants are entitled to 
additional administrative review of their claims.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ In fiscal year 2017, we completed 5.62 million retirement 
and survivors insurance claims and 2.485 million initial disability 
claims. We also received 620,000 hearing requests, and completed 
686,000 hearings. FY 2019 Congressional Justification, at 6 
(available at: https://www.ssa.gov/budget/FY19Files/2019CJ.pdf).
    \6\ Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 399 (1971).
    \7\ For example, in Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 28-29 
(2003), the Supreme Court stated that, ``As we have observed, `[t]he 
Social Security hearing system is probably the largest adjudicative 
system in the western world.' . . . The need for efficiency is self-
evident.' '' (quoting Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458, 461 n.2 
(1983)).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A claimant who is dissatisfied with an ALJ's decision, or the 
dismissal of a request for a hearing, may request that the Appeals 
Council review the decision or dismissal. Under our regulations, the 
Appeals Council will review a case if:
    (1) There appears to be an abuse of discretion by the ALJ;
    (2) there is an error of law;
    (3) the ALJ's action, findings or conclusions are not supported by 
substantial evidence;
    (4) there is a broad policy or procedural issue that may affect the 
general public interest; or
    (5) the Appeals Council receives additional evidence that the 
claimant shows is new, material, and relates to the period on or before 
the date of the ALJ hearing decision, and there is a reasonable 
probability that the evidence would change the outcome of the 
decision.\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ 20 CFR 404.970(a) and (b), 416.1470(a) and (b).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We interpret some challenges to the ALJ's authority to hear and 
decide a claim, based on the Supreme Court's decision in Lucia, as 
raising ``a broad policy or procedural issue that may affect the 
general public interest'' within the meaning of our regulations. 
Challenges to an ALJ's authority to decide a claim may raise a broadly 
applicable procedural issue independent of the merits of the individual 
claim for benefits--that is, whether the ALJ who presided over the 
claimant's hearing was properly appointed under the Appointments Clause 
of the Constitution. We will process requests for review that include a 
timely administrative challenge to the ALJ's authority based on the 
Appointments Clause in the manner described below.
    The Appeals Council will grant the claimant's request for review in 
cases where the claimant: (1) Timely requests Appeals Council review of 
an ALJ's decision or dismissal issued before July 16, 2018; and (2) 
raises before us (either at the Appeals Council level, or previously 
had raised at the ALJ level) a challenge under the Appointments Clause 
to the authority of the ALJ who issued the decision or dismissal in the 
case.
    When the Appeals Council grants review based on a timely-raised 
Appointments Clause challenge, AAJs who have been appointed by the 
Acting Commissioner (or whose appointments the Acting Commissioner has 
ratified) will vacate the hearing decision or dismissal.\9\ In cases in 
which the ALJ made a decision, the Appeals Council will conduct a new 
and independent review of the claims file and either remand the case to 
an ALJ other than the ALJ who issued the decision under review, or 
issue its own new decision about the claim covering the period before 
the date of the ALJ's decision. In its review, the Appeals Council will 
not presume that the prior hearing decision was correct.\10\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ Under our regulations, whenever the Appeals Council reviews 
a hearing decision under 20 CFR 404.967, 404.969, 416.1467, or 
416.1469, and the claimant does not appear personally or through 
representation before the Appeals Council to present oral argument, 
the Appeals Council's review will be conducted by a panel of not 
less than two members of the Appeals Council designated in the 
manner prescribed by the Chairman or Deputy Chairman of the Council. 
In the event of disagreement between a panel composed of only two 
members, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman, or his or her delegate, 
who must be a member of the Council, shall participate as a third 
member of the panel. When the claimant appears in person or through 
representation before the Appeals Council, the review will be 
conducted by a panel of not less than three members of the Council 
designated in the manner prescribed by the Chairman or Deputy 
Chairman. Concurrence of a majority of a panel shall constitute the 
decision of the Appeals Council unless the case is considered by the 
Appeals Council en banc or as a representative body, as provided in 
20 CFR 422.205. See 20 CFR 422.205(b).
    \10\ 20 CFR 404.979, 416.1479.
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    In cases in which the ALJ dismissed a request for a hearing, the 
Appeals Council will vacate the ALJ's dismissal order.\11\ It will then 
either: (1) Decide whether the request for a hearing should be 
dismissed, or (2) remand the case to another ALJ to determine that 
issue.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ 20 CFR 404.960(a), 416.1460(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When the Appeals Council grants a claimant's request for review in 
cases that raise a timely Appointments Clause challenge, the claimant 
may request a reasonable opportunity to file briefs or other written 
statements about the facts and law relevant to the case.\12\ Our 
regulations also allow a claimant to request to appear before the 
Appeals Council to present oral argument.\13\ If the Appeals Council 
decides that the case raises an important question of law or policy, or 
that oral argument would help to reach the proper result, the Appeals 
Council will grant the request to appear. If the Appeals Council grants 
a request to appear and holds oral argument, it will notify the 
claimant and his or her representative about the time and place at 
least 10 days before the

[[Page 9584]]

date scheduled for the appearance.\14\ The Appeals Council will 
determine whether the appearance, or the appearance of any other person 
relevant to the proceeding, will be in person, by video 
teleconferencing, or by telephone.\15\
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    \12\ 20 CFR 404.975, 416.1475.
    \13\ 20 CFR 404.976(b), 416.1476(b).
    \14\ Id.
    \15\ Id.
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    When the Appeals Council grants a request for review, it will mail 
a notice to all parties at their last known address stating the reasons 
for the review and the issues to be considered.\16\ Consistent with our 
regulations, the Appeals Council will consider all the evidence in the 
ALJ hearing record, as well as additional evidence subject to the 
limitations on Appeals Council consideration of additional evidence in 
20 CFR 404.970 and 416.1470. The Appeals Council will also consider any 
arguments the claimant or representative made in writing or at the 
hearing and will also consider any additional arguments submitted to 
it.
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    \16\ 20 CFR 404.973, 416.1473
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    The Appeals Council will either remand the case to a different ALJ; 
issue a new, independent decision; or, as appropriate, issue an order 
dismissing the request for a hearing. When the Appeals Council issues a 
decision, its decision may result in different findings from the ALJ 
hearing decision that the Appeals Council vacated.\17\ When the Appeals 
Council grants review and issues its own decision, its decision will be 
based on the preponderance of the evidence.\18\

    \17\ 20 CFR 404.979, 416.1479.
    \18\ Id.
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[FR Doc. 2019-04817 Filed 3-14-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4191-02-P