Guidelines -- Appellate Review of Recommended Decisions of Administrative Law Judges in Indian Self-Determination Act Declinations


The Indian Self-Determination Act (ISDA), P.L. 93-638, as amended, requires that the agency provide a hearing on the record when a tribe or tribal organization appeals an Indian Health Service (IHS) decision to decline to enter into a contract pursuant to the ISDA. The hearing is held by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the Department of the Interior, who makes a recommended decision. In October 1994, the ISDA was amended to require an official above the IHS level, instead of the Director, IHS, to make the final agency decision. The Secretary has delegated the authority to make the final decision to the Appellate Division of the Departmental Appeals Board. A dissatisfied party may file objections to an ALJ's recommended decision with the Departmental Appeals Board in accordance with procedures in Part 900, Subpart L of Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). These guidelines have been designed to assist the parties in understanding and following the procedures relating to Board review.

If you have any questions about these guidelines, you may call the Appellate Division at (202) 565-0208 or call the Appellate Division Director directly at the number listed under Contact DAB on the DAB website (

Starting the Review Process

(a) Any party may file "precise and specific written objections" to the ALJ's recommended decision within 30 days of receiving the recommended decision. See 25 C.F.R. § 900.166. "Filing" means the date on which your objections are mailed or delivered to the Board. Objections which are not timely filed will be dismissed. If no objections are filed or if objections are dismissed as untimely, the recommended decision becomes final.

(b) You may submit your objections to:

Department of Health and Human Services
Departmental Appeals Board, MS 6127
Appellate Division
330 Independence Ave., S.W.
Cohen Building, Room G-644
Washington, D.C. 20201

(c) In order to expedite a fair review, the Board requests that your written objections --

  • specify any finding of fact with which you disagree, identifying the finding either by referring to a numbered finding in the recommended decision or by citing to the page on which the finding is made;
  • specify any conclusion of law with which you disagree, identifying the conclusion either by referring to a numbered conclusion or by citing to the page on which the conclusion is stated; and
  • explain fully the reasons why you think the finding is unsupported or the conclusion is wrong.

Please state each argument concisely and set it forth in a separate paragraph or section. Where appropriate, each argument should be supported by precise citations to the record before the ALJ. You do not need to submit materials already in the record.

(d) Provide an original and two copies of your objections to the Board and a copy to the opposing party. Include in your submission to the Board a statement that you have sent a copy to the opposing party.

The Review Process at the Board

(a) Upon receipt of written objections, the Chair will appoint a deciding official to hear the objections and provide such other process as deemed necessary. The deciding official will be assisted by a staff attorney who also functions as the parties' contact for questions about case status and procedures.

(b) The Board will review only those parts of the record before the ALJ which are cited in the written objections or which the Board considers necessary to decide the appeal. The Board will not consider issues not raised in the written objections, nor issues which could have been presented to the ALJ but were not.

(c) The Board has 20 days from the date it receives any timely written objections to modify, adopt, or reverse the recommended decision. If the Board does not take any of these actions during that time, the recommended decision automatically becomes final.

Last Revised: March 10, 2004

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