DI 52755.001 General Information on the Chavez Acquiescence Ruling (AR)
This subchapter provides case processing instructions that you must apply when implementing AR 97-4(9) acquiescing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Chavez v. Bowen.
AR 97-4(9) was published on 12/03/97, to explain how the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Chavez will be applied within the circuit. The Ninth Circuit held that a final decision by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that found that a claimant is not disabled gives rise to a presumption that the claimant continues to be not disabled after the period adjudicated, and that this presumption of continuing nondisability applies when adjudicating a subsequent disability claim with an unadjudicated period arising under the same title of the Act as the prior claim. In order to rebut the presumption of continuing nondisability, a claimant must prove “changed circumstances” affecting the issue of disability with respect to the unadjudicated period.
The court further indicated that where the claimant rebuts the presumption by proving a “changed circumstance,” the Commissioner then must give effect to certain findings contained in the final decision on the prior claim in determining whether the claimant is disabled with respect to the unadjudicated period involved in the subsequent claim. The court concluded that where such final decision on the prior claim contained findings of the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), education, and work experience, the Commissioner may not make different findings in adjudicating the subsequent disability claim unless there is new and material evidence relating to the claimant's RFC, education, or work experience.
AR 97-4(9) requires adjudicators to apply the principles of DI 52755.001C.2 below when:
The adjudicator is deciding a subsequent disability claim with an unadjudicated period; and
The subsequent claim arises under the same title of the Act as a prior claim on which there has been a final decision by an ALJ or the Appeals Council (AC) that the claimant was not disabled.
2. What the Chavez AR requires
When adjudicating the subsequent disability claim involving an unadjudicated period, the adjudicator must apply a presumption of continuing nondisability and, unless the claimant rebuts the presumption, determine that the claimant is not disabled with respect to that period.
A claimant may rebut the presumption by showing a “changed circumstance” affecting the issue of disability with respect to the unadjudicated period.
If the presumption is rebutted, the adjudicator then must adopt certain findings, as described below, contained in the final decision by the ALJ or AC on the prior claim when adjudicating the subsequent claim.
The requirement to adopt findings applies only to a finding of a claimant's RFC, education, or work experience, or other finding required at a step of the sequential evaluation process for determining disability provided under 20 CFR 404.1520, 416.920 or 416.924, or a finding required under the evaluation process for determining disability provided under 20 CFR 404.1578), as appropriate, which was made in the final decision by the ALJ or AC which found the claimant not disabled in connection with such prior claim. (See DI 52755.010B.1. for a description of the findings to which the requirement applies.)
When the presumption of continuing nondisability is rebutted, the adjudicator will adopt such a finding from the final ALJ or AC decision on the prior claim in determining whether the claimant is disabled with respect to the unadjudicated period unless there is new and material evidence relating to such finding or there has been a change in the law, regulations or rulings affecting the finding or the method for arriving at the finding.