TN 4 (11-88)
GN 04040.010 Res Judicata
Res judicata is a rule in civil law that, simply stated, provides that once an issue is decided it does not need to be decided again.
Res judicata applies to adjudications involving postadjudicative issues as well as issues involved with the filing of subsequent applications.
B. Policy Principle—Comparison to Collateral Estoppel
Res judicata and collateral estoppel are similar (see GN 04040.020). However, res judicata applies to findings of fact made with respect to a claim under the same title of the Act, and collateral estoppel applies to findings of fact made with respect to a claim under a different title of the Act.
C. Policy Principle—Comparison to Appeals Process
In the appeals process, a case will be considered regardless of whether new evidence is presented.
If an individual fails to avail himself/herself of the appeals process (does not file a request timely) and files another application but provides no new facts or no new evidence; i.e., nothing changes, then the adjudicator can apply the doctrine of res judicata. Since we have the same person, the same issue and the same facts and we have already issued a decision to that person which has become final (no appeal filed timely), then res judicata protects SSA from having to consider the same claim (on which it has already issued a decision) again and again, potentially ad infinitum.
NOTE: It should be noted that if anything has changed, the adjudicator should not apply res judicata but should adjudicate the second claim in the usual manner. In applying the doctrine of res judicata in application situations see GN 00204.028. If the claimant continues to have disability insured status after the date of the last determination or decision on the claim, res judicata cannot be applied to the unadjudicated period (i.e. the period after the date of the last determination or decision) even if the claimant alleges the same onset date and impairment and there does not appear to be any change in the claimant's condition. See DI 27516.010 for guidance in determining the applicability of res judicata in title II disability claims.
D. Operating Policy-Notice and Appeal
SSA does provide a notice on the second claim with the appropriate appeal paragraph but simply tells the individual that the decision reached on the first application applies to this application; i.e., SSA applies res judicata. SSA advises the claimant that his/her appeal is limited to whether we have the same issue, the same facts and the same person.