APPLICATION OF SECOND CIRCUIT DECISIONS TO SOCIAL SECURITY ACT DISABILITY BENEFIT CLAIMS OF NEW YORK RESIDENTS
A. General Rule
Effective immediately, all persons who decide Social Security Act disability benefit claims of New York State residents or who review such decisions shall follow and apply the holdings of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, except when written instructions to the contrary are issued pursuant to paragraphs D and E. This instruction applies to all Second Circuit disability decisions except those that are expressly designated not for publication.
B. How to Apply Holdings
Holdings of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals must be applied at all levels of administrative review to all claims for title II and title XVI disability benefits filed by New York State residents, unless written instructions to the contrary are issued pursuant to paragraphs D and E. You must apply those holdings in good faith and to the best of your ability and understanding whether or not you view them as correct or sound.
In general, a holding in a decision is a legal principle that is the basis of the court's decision on any issue in the case. There may be more than one holding in a decision. A holding must be applied whenever the legal principle is relevant.
Not all of the discussion in a decision is a holding. For example, the factual discussion in a decision is not a holding although it can help you understand the holding by placing it in context. Also, in their decisions courts may make observations or other remarks that are helpful in understanding the court's reasoning. You are required to apply the holdings, not those observations or other comments of the court.
Of course, you should continue to make sure that the decision whether a claimant is disabled is an individualized decision based on the evidence regarding that claimant.
C. Availability of Decisions and Instructions
To help ensure that decisionmakers and reviewers of decisions apply Second Circuit holdings, SSA will do the following:
1. SSA will provide each office of decisionmakers and reviewers of decisions with a copy of the settlement approved by the Court in Stieberger v. Sullivan.
2. SSA will provide all decisionmakers and reviewers of decisions with a Manual of Second Circuit disability decisions ("Manual") containing excerpts of the principal holdings of the Second Circuit issued before [XXXX date], the date that the settlement in Stieberger was approved by the Court.
3. SSA will provide each office of decisionmakers and reviewers of decisions with a copy of each Second Circuit disability decision issued after [XXX date] promptly after the decision is issued by the Court. Each such office shall maintain a volume containing copies of these decisions. This volume shall be readily accessible to decisionmakers and reviewers of decisions.
4. SSA will issue instructions to ODD decisionmakers and reviewers of decisions about applying Second Circuit decisions rendered after [xxxx date]. These instructions must be added to the Manual as supplements. SSA may issue instructions to OHA adjudicators.
You should familiarize yourself with the Manual, with SSA's instructions on Second Circuit holdings, and with Second Circuit decisions as they are issued.
While SSA will take the steps described above to help you apply Second Circuit holdings, you must apply the holdings even in the absence of an instruction, and even if they are not included in the Manual.
Example : You have become aware of a Second Circuit disability decision (for example, a claimant draws it to your attention or you receive notification of it from SSA), but you have not yet received an instruction from SSA on how to apply the decision and it is not in the Manual. You must apply the holdings of that decision to all claims where it is relevant.
D. Instructions Regarding When Decisions Become Effective
1. You must apply the holdings in a decision once the decision becomes effective. A decision of the Second Circuit generally becomes effective 20 days after the decision is issued by the Court, unless a specific written instruction is issued that requires the decision to be applied earlier or later. If you have not received instructions about a particular Second Circuit decision issued after the date of this instruction, consult with your supervisor for further guidance about whether the decision has become effective. (If you are an administrative law judge, you may inquire with the Regional Office concerning the status of the decision.)
2. As long as a Second Circuit decision is pending further court review, SSA may instruct decisionmakers and reviewers of decisions not to apply some or all holdings stated in that Second Circuit decision. In such instances SSA will issue specific instructions explaining which holdings are not to be applied and identifying the issues addressed by those holdings. When such instructions are issued, decisionmaking and reviewing offices will maintain a list of disability claims decisions that may be affected because the Second Circuit holding is not being applied. Any notice sent to claimants on the list, denying benefits in whole or in part, will include the following language:
If you do not agree with this decision, you can appeal. You must ask for an appeal within 60 days.