The Social Security Administration (SSA) Proposes a New Rule
The SSA has proposed a new rule regarding what evidence is returned to claimants who submit new material to the Appeals Council with the Request for Review, or within a certain amount of time as determined by the Appeals Council. When claimants or their representatives submit such evidence, the Appeals Council then decides if the newly submitted evidence is legitimately new, relevant, and appropriate to the time period on or prior to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing decision.
Currently, the Appeals Council is legally required to return any such evidence not relevant to the time period on or prior to the ALJ hearing decision to the claimant, with an explanation of why it was not relevant and a reminder to the claimant of his or her right to file a new application.
The SSA is proposing a new rule whereby the Appeals Council would have the right to decide whether or not to return newly submitted evidence. The basis for the decision would be the following factors: who submitted the information, how it was submitted, if the claimant is represented, and if the claimant still has access to the information.
The reason for this proposed rule change has to do with the fact that electronic means of submitting evidence now render the practice of returning evidence redundant, unnecessary, and therefore, obsolete. Under the proposed rule, electronically submitted evidence would not likely be returned, because chances are the claimant still has access to the information. This would save the SSA money, as printing electronically submitted and mailing it back to the claimant is expensive.
According to the proposed rule, some types of evidence would still be returned, such as an original or certified copy of a marriage or birth certificate. The SSA accepted comments on the proposed new rule through November 20, 2015.