20 CFR 410.670c - Application of circuit court law.
The procedures which follow apply to administrative determinations or decisions on claims involving the application of circuit court law.
(a) The Administration will apply a holding in a United States Court of Appeals decision which it determines conflicts with its interpretation of a provision of the Social Security Act or regulations unless the Government seeks further review or the Administration relitigates the issue presented in the decision in accordance with paragraphs (c) and (d) of this section. The Administration will apply the holding to claims at all levels of administrative adjudication within the applicable circuit unless the holding, by its nature, applies only at certain levels of adjudication.
(b) When the Administration determines that a United States Court of Appeals holding conflicts with the Administration's interpretation of a provision of the Social Security Act or regulations and the Government does not seek further review or is unsuccessful on further review, the Administration will issue a Social Security Acquiescence Ruling that describes the administrative case and the court decision, identifies the issue(s) involved, and explains how the Administration will apply the holding, including, as necessary, how the holding relates to other decisions within the applicable circuit. These rulings will generally be effective on the date of their publication in the Federal Register and will apply to all determinations and decisions made on or after that date. If the Administration makes a determination or decision between the date of a circuit court decision and the date an Acquiescence Ruling is published, the claimant may request application of the published ruling to the prior determination or decision. The claimant must first demonstrate that application of the ruling could change the prior determination or decision. A claimant may so demonstrate by submitting a statement which cites the ruling and indicates what finding or statement in the rationale of the prior determination or decision conflicts with the ruling. If the claimant can so demonstrate, the Administration will readjudicate the claim at the level at which it was last adjudicated in accordance with the ruling. Any readjudication will be limited to consideration of the issue(s) covered by the ruling and any new determination or decision on readjudication will be subject to administrative and judicial review in accordance with this subpart. A denial of a request for readjudication will not be subject to further administrative or judicial review. If a claimant files a request for readjudication within the sixty day appeal period and that request is denied, the Administration shall extend the time to file an appeal on the merits of the claim to sixty days after the date that the request for readjudication is denied.
(c) After the Administration has published a Social Security Acquiescence Ruling to reflect a holding of a United States Court of Appeals on an issue, the Administration may decide under certain conditions to relitigate that issue within the same circuit. The Administration will relitigate only when the conditions specified in paragraphs (c) (2) and (3) of this section are met, and, in general, one of the events specified in paragraph (c)(1) of this section occurs.
(1) Activating events: (i) An action by both Houses of Congress indicates that a court case on which an Acquiescence Ruling was based was decided inconsistently with congressional intent, such as may be expressed in a joint resolution, an appropriations restriction, or enactment of legislation which affects a closely analogous body of law;
(ii) A statement in a majority opinion of the same circuit indicates that the court might no longer follow its previous decision if a particular issue were presented again;
(iii) Subsequent circuit court precedent in other circuits supports the Administration's interpretation of the Social Security Act or regulations on the issue(s) in question; or
(iv) A subsequent Supreme Court decision presents a reasonable legal basis for questioning a circuit court holding upon which the Administration bases a Social Security Acquiescence Ruling.
(2) The General Counsel of SSA, after consulting with the Department of Justice, concurs that relitigation of an issue and application of the Administration's interpretation of the Social Security Act or regulations at the administrative level within the circuit would be appropriate.
(3) The Administration publishes a notice in the Federal Register that it intends to relitigate an issue, and that it will apply its interpretation of the Social Security Act or regulations at the administrative level within the circuit. The notice will explain why the Administration made this decision.
(d) When the Administration decides to relitigate an issue, it will provide a notice explaining its action to all affected claimants. In adjudicating claims subject to relitigation, decisionmakers throughout the SSA administrative review process will apply the Administration's interpretation of the Social Security Act and regulations, but will also state in written determinations or decisions how the claims would have been decided under the circuit standard. Claims not subject to relitigation will continue to be decided under the Acquiescence Ruling in accordance with the circuit standard. So that affected claimants can be readily identified and any subsequent decision of the circuit court or the Supreme Court can be implemented quickly and efficiently, the Administration will maintain a listing of all claimants who receive this notice and will provide them the relief ordered by the court.
(e) The Administration will rescind as obsolete a Social Security Acquiescence Ruling and apply its interpretation of the Social Security Act or regulations by publishing a notice in the Federal Register when any of the following events occurs:
(1) The Supreme Court overrules or limits a circuit court holding that was the basis of an Acquiescence Ruling;
(2) A circuit court overrules or limits itself on an issue that was the basis of an Acquiescence Ruling;
(3) A Federal law is enacted that removes the basis for the holding in a decision of a circuit court that was the subject of an Acquiescence Ruling; or
(4) The Administration subsequently clarifies, modifies or revokes the regulation or ruling that was the subject of a circuit court holding that the Administration determined conflicts with its interpretation of the Social Security Act or regulations, or it subsequently publishes a new regulation(s) addressing an issue(s) not previously included in its regulations when that issue(s) was the subject of a circuit court holding that conflicted with its interpretation of the Social Security Act or regulations and that holding was not compelled by the statute or Constitution.
[55 FR 1019, Jan. 11, 1990, as amended at 62 FR 38453, July 18, 1997]
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