SSA's Proposed AAJ/CARES Program and Proposed Legislation Allowing for Term Limited Hiring of ALJs Will Not Go Forward
AALJ President Marilyn Zahm announced in her newsletter of August 25, 2016, that AALJ and the Agency have resolved their differences regarding these two important issues. The Agency will not have Appeals Council attorney-examiner AAJs holding hearings, and they will request that the Office of Management and Budget shelve the proposed legislation for hiring term-limited ALJs. AALJ and the Agency will work together to establish an ALJ cadre with particular expertise to hear and decide the non-disability cases. Judge Zahm, Vice President Linda Stagno, and National Grievance Chair Rita Eppler were instrumental in achieving this agreement.
In further discussion regarding ODAR operations and the pending backlog of hearing requests, AALJ and the Agency pledged they will work together to address the problems facing us. Judge Zahm gave the Agency a list of recommendations to make the adjudicatory process more efficient. Those suggestions are here.
The backlog of hearing requests is a problem which impacts everyone in ODAR. The solutions proposed by management were attempts to address the issue, but in doing so our independence was significantly imperiled. Not just our qualified decisional independence, but our continued existence as judges was at issue. The efforts of AALJ led to Senate scrutiny of the Agency's proposal regarding attorney-examiner AAJs hearing non-disability cases. The issues were thoroughly addressed in a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on May 12, 2016. Judge Zahm testified on AALJ's behalf. The AALJ arguments were persuasive, and with further discussion the Agency had a better understanding of our concerns. With that, the Agency agreed to withdraw the AAJ proposal, as well as the recently proposed legislation to hire term-limited ALJs.
The backlog is still with us. The Agency is still under enormous pressure to resolve it. Judges are still under enormous pressure dealing with it. We are all working toward the same goal. Take a look at the AALJ recommendations. They are made to help make our work more efficient, which in turn will allow for more decisions.