[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 36 (Thursday, February 23, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 10657-10658]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-4178]


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SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

20 CFR Parts 404 and 416

[Docket No. SSA-2011-0008]
RIN 0960-AH29


Protecting the Public and Our Employees in Our Hearing Process

AGENCY: Social Security Administration.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: We are clarifying our regulations to ensure the safety of the 
public and our employees in our hearing process. Due to increasing 
reports of threats to our hearing office employees, we are taking steps 
to explicitly increase the level of protection we provide to our staff 
and to the public during the hearing process. We expect these changes 
to result in a safer work environment for our employees, while at the 
same time ensuring that our claimants continue to receive a full and 
fair hearing on their claims for benefits.

DATES: These final rules are effective February 23, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Glen Colvin, Social Security 
Administration, 5107 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3260, 703-
605-8444, for information about this final rule. For information on 
eligibility or filing for benefits, call our national toll-free number, 
1-800-772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0778, or visit our Internet site, 
Social Security Online, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    With one minor change, we are making final the rules protecting the 
public and our employees in our hearing process that we published as 
interim final rules in the Federal Register on March 14, 2011 (76 FR 
13506). The preamble to the interim final rules discussed the new rules 
and our reasons for proposing those additions. Interested readers may 
refer to the preamble to the interim final rules.\1\
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    \1\ The interim final rules are available at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=SSA-2011-0008-0001.
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Explanation of Changes

    We are revising our regulations at Sec. Sec.  404.937 and 416.1437 
to further describe when the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law 
Judge will find a claimant or other individual poses a reasonable 
threat to the safety of our employees or other participants in the 
hearing. We are making these changes to respond to public comments we 
received.

Public Comments on the Interim Final Rules

    In the interim final rules, we provided the public a 60-day comment 
period, which ended on May 13, 2011. We received three public comments. 
Since the comments were long, we have condensed, summarized, and 
paraphrased them. We summarized the commenters' views and responded to 
the significant issues raised by the commenters that were within the 
scope of this rule.
    Comment: Two commenters wanted to make sure that the regulation 
consistently used the term ``poses a threat'' instead of any reference 
to ``has made a threat'' as the grounds for applying the regulation.
    Response: We expanded this section to clarify that the Hearing 
Office Chief Administrative Judge will find that an individual poses a 
threat if the individual either has made a threat and there is 
reasonable likelihood that the claimant or other individual could act 
on the threat, or if evidence suggests that the claimant or other 
individual poses a threat.
    Comment: Another commenter agreed with the goal of our interim 
final rules, but wanted to make sure that the regulation will not 
result in discrimination against claimants based on their disabilities, 
national origin, or primary language.
    Response: These regulations are designed to protect our employees 
and the public we serve regardless of their disabilities, national 
origin or primary language. Nothing in these regulations increases the 
likelihood of discrimination against any claimant or other individual 
based disability, national origin or primary language. Rather, the 
regulations focus solely on the conduct of the individual posing a 
threat and the consequences of such activity.

Regulatory Procedures

Executive Order 12866 as Supplemented by Executive Order 13563

    We consulted with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and

[[Page 10658]]

determined that these final rules meet the criteria for a significant 
regulatory action under Executive Order 12866 as supplemented by 
Executive Order 13563. Thus, OMB reviewed these final rules.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    We certify that these final rules will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities as they 
affect individuals only. Therefore, a regulatory flexibility analysis 
is not required under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, as amended.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    These rules do not create any new or affect any existing 
collections and, therefore, do not require OMB approval under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Nos. 96.001, Social 
Security--Disability Insurance; 96.002, Social Security--Retirement 
Insurance; 96.004, Social Security--Survivors Insurance; 96.006, 
Supplemental Security Income.)

List of Subjects

20 CFR Part 404

    Administrative practice and procedure; Blind, Disability benefits; 
Old-age, Survivors and disability insurance; Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements; Social Security.

20 CFR Part 416

    Administrative practice and procedure; Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements; Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Michael J. Astrue,
Commissioner of Social Security.

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, we are amending subpart J 
of part 404 and subpart N of part 416 of title 20 of the Code of 
Federal Regulations as set forth below:

PART 404--FEDERAL OLD-AGE, SURVIVORS AND DISABILITY INSURANCE 
(1950- )

Subpart J--[Amended]

0
1. The authority citation for subpart J of part 404 continues to read 
as follows:

    Authority: Secs. 201(j), 204(f), 205(a), (b), (d)-(h), and (j), 
221, 223(i), 225, and 702(a)(5) of the Social Security Act (42 
U.S.C. 401(j), 404(f), 405(a), (b), (d)-(h), and (j), 421, 423(i), 
425, and 902(a)(5)); sec. 5, Pub. L. 97-455, 96 Stat. 2500 (42 
U.S.C. 405 note); secs. 5, 6(c)-(e), and 15, Pub. L. 98-460, 98 
Stat. 1802 (42 U.S.C. 421 note); sec. 202, Pub. L. 108-203, 118 
Stat. 509 (42 U.S.C. 902 note).


0
2. Amend Sec.  404.937 by revising the second sentence of paragraph 
(b)(1) to read as follows:


Sec.  404.937  Protecting the safety of the public and our employees in 
our hearing process.

* * * * *
    (b)(1) * * * The Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge will 
find that a claimant or other individual poses a threat to the safety 
of our employees or other participants in the hearing when he or she 
determines that the individual has made a threat and there is a 
reasonable likelihood that the claimant or other individual could act 
on the threat or when evidence suggests that a claimant or other 
individual poses a threat. * * *
* * * * *

PART 416--SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME FOR THE AGED, BLIND, AND 
DISABLED

Subpart N--[Amended]

0
3. The authority citation for subpart N continues to read as follows:

    Authority: Secs. 702(a)(5), 1631, and 1633 of the Social 
Security Act (42 U.S.C. 902(a)(5), 1383, and 1383b); sec. 202, Pub. 
L. 108-203, 118 Stat. 509 (42 U.S.C. 902 note).


0
4. Amend Sec.  416.1437 by revising the second sentence of paragraph 
(b)(1) to read as follows:


Sec.  416.1437  Protecting the safety of the public and our employees 
in our hearing process.

* * * * *
    (b)(1) * * * The Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge will 
find that a claimant or other individual poses a threat to the safety 
of our employees or other participants in the hearing when he or she 
determines that the individual has made a threat and there is a 
reasonable likelihood that the claimant or other individual could act 
on the threat or when evidence suggests that a claimant or other 
individual poses a threat. * * *
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2012-4178 Filed 2-22-12; 8:45 am]
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