TN 3 (07-10)

DI 12010.041 Administrative Law Judge Oral (Bench) Decisions

A. Policy - oral bench decisions

The administrative law judge (ALJ) oral (bench) decisions are abbreviated wholly favorable decisions that are entered into the record of the hearing proceedings. The oral (bench) decision provides an alternative procedure for the ALJ to use when issuing the written decision.

B. Procedure – Hearings, Appeals and Litigation (HALLEX) manual instructions

HALLEX I-5-1-17 provides instructions for stating wholly favorable ALJ oral (bench) decisions at hearings and for incorporating the findings of fact and reasons for the decision stated orally at the hearing by reference in the written decision. The link for the HALLEX instructions is http://policynet.ba.ssa.gov/hallex.nsf/lnx/10501017.

C. Procedure – criteria for oral (bench) decisions

The ALJ may use the oral (bench) decisions procedures only if all of the following criteria are present:

  • The case is an initial adult disability case under Title II or Title XVI of the Social Security Act, or a claim for benefits as a disabled widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse under Title II of the Act, or a claim for payments as a child under age 18 under Title XVI of the Act.

  • Drug addiction or alcoholism is not an issue in the determination of disability.

  • The case does not involve a Title II disabled adult child, a Title XVI age-18 redetermination, a continuing disability review, or a closed period of disability.

  • The ALJ decides at the hearing that a wholly favorable decision is warranted.

  • There are no changes to the findings of fact or the rationale for the ALJ decision between the time the oral (bench) decision is made at the hearing and the written decision is issued.

The ALJ is not required to use bench decisions. Even if all the above conditions are met, the ALJ may still decide to issue a written decision in the full-length format that gives the findings of fact and the reasons for the decision. The field office (FO) or processing center (PC) should first look for the usual, full-length format ALJ decision. If that is in the file, process the case per the usual procedures. If a full-length format, written decision is not in the file, the file will contain a signed and dated checksheet and a notice of decision that can be used to effectuate the ALJ decision.

D. Procedure - checksheet document

If the ALJ chooses to make a wholly favorable oral (bench) decision at the hearing, the ALJ is required to include as an exhibit in the record a prescribed checksheet document that sets forth the key data, findings of fact, and narrative rationale for the decision. The ALJ must sign and date the checksheet. Claimants and their representatives may voluntarily submit proposed checksheet documents of their own at the hearing. If the ALJ decides to use the proposed checksheet as is, or with changes, the ALJ must copy the proposed checksheet and sign and date the copy. The completed, signed copy of the proposed checksheet becomes an exhibit used to prepare the decision. If the ALJ decides not to issue an oral (bench) decision, but concludes that the proposed checksheet represents evidence that is material to the issues or proposed findings, rationale, or conclusions for consideration in the formulation of a written decision, the ALJ must enter the original proposed document into the record as a procedural exhibit.

The FO or PC will use the checksheet, along with the decision notice, to effectuate the ALJ decision following - DI 12010.035, DI 12010.040, DI 42010.020, GN 03103.250, SI 04030.050, and SI 00603.040. If necessary, the FO or PC will view the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) Case Processing & Management System (CPMS) for the regulation basis code and impairment code (see DI 80550.000 for an overview of CPMS). If the checksheet does not provide all the information needed, or if the case does not meet the criteria for an oral decision, contact the hearing office (HO) to resolve. If the HO cannot resolve the issue, follow DI 42010.065, DI 42010.070 - DI 42010.075, GN 03103.260, and SI 04030.060.