New Appeals Council (AC) Evidence Rule Finalized
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has finalized a cost-saving rule that determines what types of submitted evidence the AC will return to claimants.
The rule, which went into effect on February 5, 2016, states that the AC has the power to decide whether or not to return evidence. In making such a decision, the AC will consider the following factors: who submitted the evidence, how the evidence was submitted, whether or not the claimant had representation, and whether or not the claimant still has access to the information once it had been submitted.
Electronically-submitted evidence is unlikely to be returned, as claimants most likely still have access to it, and it would be excessively costly for the SSA to print that information out and mail it back to the claimant. Moreover, if a claimant has representation, his or her representative can access the information in question via Electronic Records Express.
The new rule does not change how the SSA decides whether or not evidence is relevant to a specific time period, nor does it change the protocols for determining whether or not the submission of new evidence generates a protected filing date for a new application.
The AC’s former practice was to return all evidence submitted if the evidence was not material to the period on or prior to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing decision. However, even under the new rule, some types of evidence, such original or certified copies of birth or marriage records, will still be returned to claimants.