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Evidence in an Administrative Proceeding

Posted on:3/20/2012
The burden of proof in administrative proceedings is borne by "the moving party." This means that the claimant for benefits must demonstrate eligibility for those benefits or the previous agency denial is upheld. Administrative decisions are to rest upon "substantial evidence" which constitutes an overall standard of review of the findings of fact. In other words, the record must be considered as a whole.


The substantial evidence test will uphold the Social Security Administration finding of fact if a reasonable person would make the same finding. Therefore, there must be substantial evidence to support the finding, not just some evidence.


If the findings of fact include evidence concerning a witness' credibility based in his or her demeanor, such evidence is given substantial weight in considering the whole record. It is not uncommon in beneficiary hearings, such as disability, for the appearance and actions of the claimant to play a significant role in the hearing official's decision.


Higher levels of review will not have the advantage of direct witness testimony, and therefore must review the written description of witness demeanor with much care. Of course, ultimately judicial review applying the substantial evidence test to an administrative hearing record will either offer the court much room for exploration of the foundation of the findings or will call for self-restraint. Substantial evidence cannot be empirically weighed.


The agency function of adjudication provides not only a forum to the individual parties involved but also affects future policymaking in the agency. In fact, rulemaking and adjudication can at times overlap in the administrative realm, often much to the disdain of individual parties who experience something of an ex post facto declaration of rulemaking. Thus each time the hearing official makes an adjudicatory decision, he or she must not only consider the impact of the decision on the parties at hand but also the effect upon the public as a whole. Consequently, the decision will rely less on testimony and cross-examination in an administrative hearing than it would in a trial court.

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