SSA Judges Lawsuit Was Inevitable

SSA Judges’ Lawsuit Was Inevitable


In April 2013 the SSA Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJs) filed a lawsuit against the agency in Chicago U.S. District Court. As indicated in the AP article of April 23, 2013, there were a number of issues raised by the Judges including, but not limited to: inappropriate productivity “quotas”; the agency failure to address the degree of difficulty reality between approved and denied cases; and, overall questions as to the integrity of the hearing process in general, given SSA management practices.

As is the case with any assessment of current SSA operations, there is a back-drop and a history to consider. At the risk of over-simplification, my perspective as a former 30-year SSA executive is that the Judges as a group has more often than not served as the last line of defense against White House and SSA Commissioner efforts to politicize the agency (among them – blatant and subtle violation of the Administrative Procedures Act); and the problems go back decades. In fact, I recently wrote an E-Book going into considerable detail on the matter beginning with the Reagan Administration’s efforts to undermine the hearing process in the 1980s. A classic example was ceasing benefits to hundreds of thousands of disability recipients and the agency subsequent action to place on “special review” any Judge who dared to reinstate the beneficiary. Congressional action in the form of the Bellmon Amendment was merely a poorly designed cover for the Reagan Administration; a position generally opposed by multiple federal courts. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Former Republican Commissioner Astrue (a George W. Bush appointee who just completed his 6-year statutory term) was a high ranking operative in the Reagan White House and may very well have gone into the position with animus…

While I do not agree with all positions adopted by the AALJs, at a minimum the Judges deserve a right to be heard. Hearing decision integrity (whether the right cases are being approved, or disapproved as the case may be) is already being questioned in the public domain. Reference the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University report as a case in point.

I do not necessarily share former Commissioner Astrue’s confidence that an Article III Judge will summarily dismiss the AALJ lawsuit…


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