Information About SSA's Hearings and Appeals Operations
The Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) and the Office of Analytics, Review, and Oversight (OARO) are responsible for holding hearings, issuing decisions, and reviewing post-hearing appeals for claims filed under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, as amended. Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland, these components make up one of the largest administrative adjudication systems in the world.
OHO directs a nationwide field organization of administrative law judges (ALJ) who conduct impartial "de novo" hearings and make decisions on appealed determinations involving retirement, survivors, disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. Through its Appeals Council in the Office of Appellate Operations, OARO reviews ALJ decisions on appeal by claimants, or on its own motion, and processes cases appealed to federal court. The Deputy Commissioners for OHO and OARO are the agency officials responsible for administration of this enormous adjudicative system.
OHO and OARO have two case processing/adjudication components that are headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia - the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge and the Office of Appellate Operations.
Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (Office of Hearings Operations):
The Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (OCALJ) manages and administers a nationwide network of 10 regional offices, 163 hearing offices with 3 satellite hearing offices. One central office for the 5 national hearing centers (plus 2 satellite offices), and 5 national case assistance centers. OCALJ oversees the hearings process, which includes more than 1,500 ALJs who conduct impartial "de novo" hearings and make decisions on appealed agency determinations. Each year, more than 1,500 ALJs render over 650,000 decisions at the hearing level.
The Chief ALJ is the principal consultant and advisor to OHO’s Deputy Commissioner on all matters concerning the hearing process.
Office of Appellate Operations (Office of Analytics, Review, and Oversight):
The Office of Appellate Operations (OAO), through its Appeals Council (AC), serves as the final level of administrative review within the agency. Led by OAO’s Executive Director, and consisting of administrative appeals judges (AAJ) and appeals officers (AO), the AC considers appeals from hearing level decisions. It also performs quality review, policy interpretations, and court-related functions.
More information about the history of the Appeals Council.
Operational and Administrative Support:
In addition to OHO's and OARO’s case processing and adjudication components, three operational/administrative support components also support the hearings and appeals mission.
- The Office of Budget, Facilities, and Security (OBFS) oversees OHO’s budget and financial management programs, property and space management, physical security operations, and field operational needs such as workload management.
- The Office of Electronic Services and Systems Integration (OESSI) provides support for all issues pertaining to the integration of electronic disability initiatives into OHO’s business processes, administers information technology advances cutting-edge electronic services, and oversees systems security.
- The Office of Executive Operations and Human Resources (OEOHR) oversees all matters related to training, human resources, professional development, employee and labor relations, audits, and OHO-related Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act requests.