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Posts Tagged ‘administrative law judge’

Administrative Law Judges Face Lots of Pressure

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

About a tenth of the nation’s 1,500 administrative law judges (“ALJs”) gathered in Texas a few weeks ago for their annual conference. ALJs are familiar to anyone who has been involved in the disability benefits application process. As the first level of appeal beyond Social Security Administration staff, they are the judges that often make or break the applications of disability benefits hopefuls. If an ALJ rules against an applicant, most applicants are unsuccessful at trying to appeal further.

The ALJ conference covered a range of topics that pertain to the disability benefits process. Reducing the ever-increasing backlog of cases was one topic of concern. ALJs hear more than 650,000 cases a year, with nearly a million now filed annually.

ALJs also voiced their concerns over security and displeased applicants. Because ALJs are part of the executive branch and not the judicial branch like federal district court judges, ALJS do not operate out of federal courthouses with high security. ALJS are often in leased office space. The president of the ALJ conference noted that there have been 200 threats to ALJs and that applicants have attacked several.

At the same time, ALJs know they cannot dispose of cases haphazardly. The average taxpayer bill per case is $300,000, and legitimately disabled applicants may need a lifetime of support from the system they paid into during their working lives. The stakes are high. Acknowledging the long waits that many face, the ALJ president lamented, “There’s nothing more painful than seeing a widow or widower appearing in the [applicant’s] place.”

What have your experiences been in dealing with the administrative law judges of the disability benefits process?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys

West Virginia Judge Retires, Investigation Brings Changes

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Newspaper articles and posts have discussed Judge Daugherty, the West Virginian administrative law judge (“ALJ”) that the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) has been investigating. Judge Daugherty came to the media’s attention when an investigative journalist discovered that he had denied just four disability benefits cases out of 1,300, an approval rate of 99.7 percent. The typical approval rate is 60% across the country.

Judge Daugherty retired last week. He had been on administrative leave since May following the Wall Street Journal article that revealed his almost 100 percent approval rate. Judge Daugherty has denied any wrongdoing, but said that he found the disability benefits system broken because lawyers knew exactly what they had to present to win their cases. Others do not fault Judge Daugherty, but the system, which they say encourages speedy approvals to move through the backlog of cases and to appease higher level management and SSA officials. Assistance applying for disability benefits is available from a Tulsa Social Security disability lawyer.

The investigation into Judge Daugherty and other anomalies across the country have sparked changes to give ALJs and SSA staff more chances to focus on quality rather than quantity. A new policy prohibits ALJs from handling more than 1,200 cases a year. Another policy makes it difficult for judges to pick their own cases. Instead, managers will have more of a role in deciding who decides what cases.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys