Information About SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review

The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) is responsible for holding hearings, issuing decisions, and reviewing appeals as part of the Social Security Administration's process for determining whether or not a person may receive benefits. Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, ODAR is one of the largest administrative adjudication systems in the world.

ODAR 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, and supplemental security income benefits. Through the Appeals Council, ODAR also reviews ALJ decisions on appeal by claimants, or on its own motion, and processes cases appealed to federal court. The Deputy Commissioner for Disability Adjudication and Review is the agency official responsible for administration of this enormous adjudicative system.

ODAR has two case processing/adjudication components, also located 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 (Hearing Operation):

The Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge directs a nationwide field organization consisting of 10 regional offices, 168 hearing offices (including 6 satellite offices), 5 national hearing centers, and 1 national case assistance center. Hearing sites are staffed with ALJs who conduct impartial "de novo" hearings and make decisions on appealed agency determinations. Each year, more than 1,300 ALJs render over 700,000 decisions at the hearing level.

The Chief ALJ is the principal consultant and advisor to the Deputy Commissioner on all matters concerning the ALJ hearing process and all field operations.

Office of Appellate Operations:

The Office of Appellate Operations includes the Appeals Council, the last level of review within the agency, and its support staff. The Appeals Council consists of about 68 administrative appeals judges and 42 appeals officers.

The Appeals Council reviews over 165,000 hearing decisions appealed by claimants and on its own motion each year. The Appeals Council also processes over 16,000 cases appealed to federal court each year. In addition, the Appeals Council performs quality review to ensure that ODAR’s decisions and practices are policy compliant and provides expert advice to the Deputy Commissioner on regulations and proposals for legislation within ODAR's jurisdiction.

The Executive Director of the Office of Appellate Operations serves as the Deputy Chair of the Appeals Council and is a key advisor to the Deputy Commissioner on program operations matters, adjudicative trends at both the administrative appeals and court levels, and related ODAR functions.

More information about the history of the Appeals Council.

Operational and Administrative Support:

In addition to ODAR's case processing and adjudication components, three operational/administrative support components also support ODAR's mission.

  • The Office of Budget, Facilities, and Security administers ODAR's budget, manages space and supply procurement, and oversees physical and systems security.

  • The Office of Electronic Services and Strategic Information provides technology support, advances cutting-edge electronic services, and provides comprehensive management information for ODAR and the Commissioner of Social Security.

  • The Office of Executive Operations and Human Resources plans and manages ODAR's training and employee development programs, handles a myriad of personnel and organizational issues, administers ODAR responses to Government Accountability Office and Inspector General audits and Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act requests, and advises the Deputy Commissioner on labor and employee relations issues.