I am hearing reports that National Hearing Center (NHC) Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) will now be forced to travel to remote locations when the claimant declines a video hearing. The obvious reason for this is that claimants are frequently declining to do a video hearing with an NHC ALJ because the identity of the ALJ is being kept a secret until the day of the hearing. The whole reason for the "secret ALJ" policy has been the NHCs.
There are several problems with having the NHC ALJs travel like this:
- Social Security doesn't have the money for the travel expenses.
- The traveling will make the NHC ALJs much less efficient.
- None of the NHC ALJs signed on to any travel, much less extensive travel.
- It has been my impression that at least a few of the NHC ALJs wanted to be at a NHC because they wanted to avoid being in the same room as the claimant and the claimant's attorney. For them, the lack of face to face contact wasn't a bug. It was a feature.
Defeat the NHCs and you probably defeat the "secret ALJ" policy. I think the NHCs are in trouble.