TN 6 (04-12)
GN 03970.050 Hearing Office Decision on the Charges
A. Policy on hearing officer’s decision
Based on the evidence entered into the record, the hearing officer determines whether the agency proved its charges by a preponderance of the evidence. The hearing officer issues his or her decision in writing, setting forth specific findings of fact and conclusions of law. The hearing officer mails a copy of the decision to all the parties at their last known addresses. The notice accompanying the decision informs the parties of the right to ask the Appeals Council (AC) to review the hearing officer’s decision.
If the hearing officer determines that the agency proved the charges, he or she will either,
suspend the individual for a specified period of not less than 1 year nor more than 5 years from the date of the decision, or
disqualify the individual from further practice before the Social Security Administration (SSA) until the individual may be reinstated. For the procedure on reinstatement, see GN 03970.050C (in this section).
Disqualification is the only sanction available if the hearing officer sustained the charges because the representative has:
been disbarred or suspended from any court or bar to which he or she was previously admitted to practice;
been disqualified from participating in any Federal program or appearing before any Federal agency; or
collected or received and retained a fee for representational services in excess of the amount that SSA authorized.
The sanction becomes effective as of the date of the hearing officer’s decision if the representative does not appeal the suspension or disqualification decision to the AC and the time for requesting AC review expires. If the representative has appealed the suspension or disqualification decision to the AC, SSA continues to recognize the representative’s appointment(s) until the AC issues a final decision.
Components will know when the sanction decision is effective because:
the sanctioned representative’s name will appear on the Sanction List (the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) asks the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) Division of Information Technology Integration to post the representative’s name on the list);
the sanctioned representative’s name will also appear in the Appointed Representative Database. OGC asks the Office of Income Security Programs’ Office of Payment and Claimant Representation Policy to post the sanction; and
OGC notifies the following components of the sanction:
OGC’s Office of General Law;
the Regional Chief Counsel(s) for the region(s) that handles the transcript litigation workload for the state(s) where the representative has been known to practice;
the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge;
the Office of Appellate Operations;
the Office of Central Operations;
the OHO Regional Attorney for the region(s) in which the representative has been known to practice;
the Regional Commissioner(s) for the region(s) in which the representative has been known to practice; and
the SSA office that made the referral to OGC.
OGC’s notice will contain the following information:
that SSA sanctioned the representative;
the sanction imposed and the effective date;
that the representative’s name will appear on the Intranet List of Sanctioned Representatives;
to refer to SSA’s Intranet website entitled “What to do with a Sanctioned Representative” if they determine the sanctioned representative is appearing before them; and
the name of an SSA attorney in OGC to contact with questions about the sanction.
If the sanctioned representative is an attorney, OGC will also send a copy of the decision to the state bar disciplinary authority for each State or Territory in which OGC knows the representative is licensed to practice law. SSA’s Representative Disqualification/Suspension Information System of Records (60-0219) allows SSA to disclose: “[t]o a State bar disciplinary authority in the State(s) in which a disqualified/suspended attorney is admitted to practice that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has disqualified/suspended the attorney from further practice before SSA and, upon request, further information concerning the disqualification/suspension.”
B. Policy for appeals and the role of the Appeals Council (AC) in an appeal of the hearing officer’s decision
Within 30 days from the date the hearing officer mails the notice of the decision, either party can ask the AC to review the decision. If timely appealed, OGC will not ask OHO to add the representative’s name to the list of sanctioned representatives or notify agency components about the hearing decision. While the appeal is pending, SSA continues to recognize the representative. See GN 03970.055.
If the AC's decision results in the suspension or disqualification of the representative, it is effective from the date of the AC's decision. On receiving a final suspension or disqualification decision, OGC notifies SSA staff per the instructions in GN 03970.050A.
C. Reinstatement of a suspended or disqualified representative
We will automatically allow an individual to serve as a representative at the end of any suspension. In addition, after the expiration of one year from the date of the suspension (if the suspension is longer than a year) or disqualification, a sanctioned representative may petition the Deputy Chair of the Appeals Council (AC) for reinstatement. When a sanctioned representative files a petition for reinstatement, the AC gives OGC an opportunity to provide the AC with comments concerning the petition, relevant evidence related to the representative’s activities leading to the sanction, and a written report of any experiences with the suspended or disqualified representative after the date of the suspension or disqualification. If the AC grants reinstatement, OGC will notify the appropriate SSA components. If the AC denies the representative’s request for reinstatement, the original sanction will remain in effect.
NOTE: Refer questions regarding this section to the appropriate OGC office electronically at the addresses listed in GN 03970.070A.
Representative Disqualification/Suspension Information System, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel (60-0219), 75 FR 25904 (May 10, 2010).