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SSA Updates Practice Guide

September 30, 2014

The Social Security Administration (SSA) publishes a “Best Practices Handbook” for representatives on its website.  Of particular interest are what appear to be recent clarifications to the guidelines for actions before the Appeals Council: http://www.ssa.gov/appeals/best_practices.html#a0=3

The relevant sections of the handbook reference the “Appointed Representative’s Guide to Requesting Appeals Council Review” for the best methods to submit a Request for Review. The Handbook also advises representatives that if a copy of the Exhibit File is requested, a 25-day extension of time (EOT) will be given, along with two bar codes.  If SSA records indicate that the representative has electronic access, copies of the file will not be provided, although an extension will be granted.

The Handbook suggests asking for an EOT in order to request bar codes. Remember that the Appeals Council will only send bar codes if specifically asked.  On the other hand, a request for an extension of time should explain how much additional time you need and why the EOT should be granted. For second requests, or requests for more than 40 days, “the particular set of circumstances in each case will be considered.”  Extensions will not be granted automatically. According to the Appeals Council, it “will grant additional time only if there are extenuating circumstances present in the case.”

The guidelines also discuss access to electronic folders.  Among other provisions, access to the electronic folder will be denied if there is more than one claim pending and access will last 90 days from the hearing decision.

Although some of the provisions seem contradictory, advocates practicing at the Appeals Council should review them carefully.

 





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