(This is the eighth post in this series about the independence of administrative law judge who will preside over your Social Security disability appeal.)
In our previous posts on this subject, we discussed how the Social Security Administration’s targeting of administrative law judges is against the law.
As we have previously discussed, Congressman Darrell E. Issa (R-CA) is the former chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and has been at the forefront of Congressional Republican attacks on the SSA Disability Insurance program. Part of Issa’s war on the disabled,not unexpectedly, was to renew the attack on the independence of Social Security’s administrative law judges. Although the cudgel appears to have been taken up by Sam Johnson, (R-Texas) who serves as the Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the Issa report can be expected to remain influential, reflecting a strategy of demonizing the disabled, their attorneys, and any judges who dare to award too many cases (pejoratively labeled outliers).
Using SSA’s focused reviews of individual ALJ’s, the Issa report declared that these focused reviews of“high allowance” ALJs showed numerous deficiencies in their decision-making (no effort being made to look at deficiencies in “low allowance” ALJ decision-making). Alleged deficiencies included:
- inadequate use of vocational experts
- poor assessments of an individual’s ability to work
- improper evaluation of claimants with a history of drug and alcohol abuse
- over reliance on claimant representatives’ briefs for ALJ decisions
- inadequate hearings with claimants.
There is no doubt that former Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue stressed as an agency priority the need to reduce the huge backlog in cases that were pending in SSA’s ODAR offices in 2005. Some ODARs were taking over three years to decide claims at that time. The effort to reduce backlogged caseloads included imposing production goals for cases handled by each ALJ. Before we address Issa’s objections about quality that were inherent in ramping up the number of cases each judge should decide, we will take a side trip in the next post on this topic over to the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals where the case of American Association of Administrative Law Judges v. Colvin was decided in January, 2015.