Hearings Held by Administrative Appeals Judges of the Appeals Council
We propose to revise our rules to clarify when and how administrative appeals judges (AAJ) on our Appeals Council may hold hearings and issue decisions. The Appeals Council already has the authority to hold hearings and issue decisions under our existing statute and regulations, but we have not exercised this authority or explained the circumstances under which it would be appropriate for the Appeals Council to assume responsibility for holding a hearing and issuing a decision. The proposed clarifications will ensure the Appeals Council is not limited in the type of claims for which it may hold hearings. We expect that these proposed rules will increase our adjudicative capacity when needed, allowing us to adjust more quickly to fluctuating short-term workloads, such as when an influx of cases reaches the hearings level. Our ability to utilize our limited resources more effectively will help us quickly optimize our hearings capacity, which in turn will allow us to continue to issue accurate, timely, high-quality decisions.
Setting the Manner for the Appearance of Parties and Witnesses at a Hearing
We are publishing a final rule we proposed in November 2018 regarding setting the time, place, and manner of appearance for hearings at the administrative law judge (ALJ) level of our administrative review process, with modifications. Our final rule states that we (the agency) will determine how parties and witnesses will appear at a hearing before an ALJ, and that we will set the time and place for the hearing accordingly. We will schedule the parties to a hearing to appear by video teleconference (VTC), in person, or, in limited circumstances, by telephone. Under this final rule, we will decide how parties and witnesses will appear at a hearing based on several factors, but the parties to a hearing will continue to have the ability to opt out of appearing by VTC at the ALJ hearings level. Finally, we are revising our rule to state that, at the ALJ hearing level, if we need to send an amended notice of hearing, or if we need to schedule a supplemental hearing, we will send the amended notice or notice of supplemental hearing at least 20 days before the date of the hearing. The date of hearing indicated in the amended notice or notice of supplemental hearing will be at least 75 days from the date we first sent the claimant a notice of hearing, unless the claimant has waived his or her right to advance notice.
Privacy Act of 1974; Matching Program
In accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act, as amended, this notice announces a new matching program with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This computer matching agreement sets forth the terms, conditions, and safeguards under which DHS will disclose information to SSA in order to identify aliens who leave the United States voluntarily and aliens who are removed from the United States. These aliens may be subject to suspension of payments or nonpayment of benefits or both, and recovery of overpayments. SSA will use DHS data to determine if suspension of payments, nonpayments of benefits, or recovery of overpayments, is applicable.
Rate for Assessment on Direct Payment of Fees to Representatives in 2020
We are announcing that the assessment percentage rate under the Social Security Act (Act) is 6.3 percent for 2020.
Rules Regarding the Frequency and Notice of Continuing Disability Reviews; Extension of Comment Period
On November 18, 2019, we published the proposed rule Rules Regarding the Frequency and Notice of Continuing Disability Reviews in the Federal Register, and solicited public comments. We provided a 60- day comment period ending January 17, 2020. We are extending the comment period for 15 days.