Social Security's List of "Best Practices for SSA Claimants' Representatives"

The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) administers the hearings and appeals program for the Social Security Administration (SSA). The ODAR has ten regional offices, 141 hearing offices, a national hearing center, and five satellite offices. There are approximately 1,100 Administrative Law Judges and 4,900 support staff in the field organization. New Jersey, along with New York, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, make up Region 2, or the New York Region. There are 15 hearing offices in Region 2. The hearing office for New Jersey is located at 1100 Raymond Blvd., in Newark.

Recently, the ODAR issued a list of what the agency called the “best practices for SSA claimants’ representatives.” The “best practices” are suggestions made by agency personnel to attorneys and others who represent applicants for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits which the agency believes will facilitate timely service and enhance the quality of claims. According to the ODAR, “adopting these practices will greatly assist [the agency] in preparing cases for hearing, providing timely, legally sufficient decisions to claimants.” A summary of the agency’s suggested “best practices” follow:

  • Whenever possible, obtain a medical source statement from a treating source which identifies the limitations imposed by the claimant’s impairments. This will greatly assist an administrative law judge (ALJ) in reaching a decision.
  • Submit evidence as far in advance of the hearing as possible.
  • Submit a cover letter with the evidence identifying what is being submitted, how the new evidence relates to the evidence previously submitted and on the record and the date of the new evidence.
  • Deal with employment (substantial gainful activity, unsuccessful work attempts, sheltered workshop environments, etc.) or earnings issues in a pre-hearing memorandum or at the hearing.
  • Deal with workers’ compensation issues in a pre-hearing memorandum or at the hearing.
  • Submit concise pre-hearing briefs whenever possible. Cite to the record. Include the page numbers of exhibits. This assists an ALJ in preparing for the hearing.
  • Do not request postponements unless essential.
  • Avoid submitting voluminous evidence at the last minute.
  • Medical and non-medical documents should be submitted separately.
  • Submit post-hearing evidence as soon as possible, along with a written brief identifying how the evidence supports a favorable decision.