Gavel, symbol of judicial decisions and justiceThe Social Security Administration follows strict rules when determining whether people with disabling conditions qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Applicants in Chicago often believe these policies are fixed. However, when rulings by the United States Court of Appeals contradict existing SSA policies, clarification of the existing rules is necessary. Acquiescence Rulings are the SSA’s way of reconciling established policies and new Court of Appeals rulings.

Interpreting outside rulings

When evaluating disability cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals has the power to make decisions that conflict with the SSA policies observed across the country. Acquiescence Rulings establish how the SSA will interpret those decisions and apply them to other SSD claims in the future.

Acquiescence Rulings are only applicable to cases that involve similar circumstances and occur in the same circuit as the original Court of Appeals decision. Holdings from one circuit and the resulting Acquiescence Rulings are not applicable in other circuits. New Acquiescence Rulings are published in the Federal Register and become effective upon the date they are published. While Acquiescence Rulings are effective, they have the following properties:

  • These rulings do not have the same strength as laws.
  • Each ruling is fully binding in all aspects of the disability determination process.
  • The rulings are not necessarily permanent. A later ruling may alter, supplant or repeal an existing ruling. Court decisions, laws and regulations may also have the same effects on Acquiescence Rulings.

Depending on the circumstances of each applicant’s SSD claim, multiple Acquiescence Rulings might affect the final claim decision.

Effects of Acquiescence Rulings

An Acquiescence Ruling can provide the basis for the denial or allowance of an SSD claim. Rulings may affect fundamental aspects of the disability determination process, such as the financial, medical and age-related criteria used to evaluate whether an individual is disabled. Rulings can also change administrative policies, such as rules on appealing decisions or requesting reviews.

The effects of Acquiescence Rulings are not limited to the claims disabled individuals make. These rulings also can impact eligibility and other rules for people seeking related Social Security benefits, such as dependent and survivors benefits.

Successfully applying for disability benefits can be difficult for applicants who are not aware of current Acquiescence Rulings. Partnering with an SSD attorney with experience practicing in the relevant circuit can be advantageous for applicants. An attorney will be aware of existing rulings and will understand how those rulings are likely to affect each applicant’s claim.