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May 9, 2012

NHC ALJs To Travel

     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.

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  • 17 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This is clearly an effort by the Commissioner to have decisions made by ALJs who will tote the Commissioner's line. It is pretty clear by now that a significant # of NHC ALJs are very conservative and I am guessing this makes the Commissioner very happy. By having them travel they can keep approval ratings low.

    12:32 PM, May 09, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    We recevied a letter from the St. Louis NHC approx. 2 weeks ago infoming us that its assigned cases for the Hannibal, MO hearing site will be held live and not VTC. So the St. Louis NHC judges will be traveling, if not already.

    1:45 PM, May 09, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    the "secret" judge policy is not going away. No more forum shopping.

    Prepare for the hearing by reviewing the file, actually talking to your claimant and putting all the evidence together to tell a coherent story that results in disability in accordance with the rules and laws applied by the SSA. Regardless of which judge you are assigned, this should be sufficient.

    2:12 PM, May 09, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I like how being adequately prepared for an individual ALJ is now called "forum shopping."

    2:24 PM, May 09, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I was told by a SSA FOIA officer yesterday that mine was one of "hundreds" of FOIA requests they had received regarding the anon. ALJ issue.

    3:28 PM, May 09, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    And we still waste time debating VTC hearings, NHCs... sad.

    3:38 PM, May 09, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    ANON 12:32 is apparently clueless. The Commissioner does not like "conservative" ALJs. He does not want lower approval rates, he wants higher approval rates. The unofficial SSA policy is to pay down the backlog. The reason more "insiders" are becoming ALJs is because management is hoping they have been indoctrinated into the pay down the backlog and push out high numbers of decisions philosophy that management espouses. The only way to issue 500 to 700 decisions a year, as management wants, is to write shoddy decisions (meaning you are opening yourself up to lots of remands) or paying lots of cases (because it does not take much time to draft a favorable decision and there is little scrutiny of pays).

    4:27 PM, May 09, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Looking at the 66 NHC ALJs with significant numbers of decisions (around 50+), 36 pay more than they deny, while 30 pay less than or equal to what deny, with three judges having equal pay and deny rates through March 2012 and several more have pay/deny rates that are close to equal.

    Baltimore NHC is almost all judges who pay more than they deny; of Albuquerques 5 NHC ALJs, two pay considerably more than they deny (275 to 83 and 214 to 93 with one paying slightly more, with the two higher denying ALJs not denying that many more than they pay). St. Louis NHC and Falls Church are about equal between ALJs who pay more than 50% and deny more than 50%. Chicago NHC is most "conservative" in terms of deny/pay rate.

    Dawson, Mark R NHC ALBUQUERQUE 195 152 181 14
    Hartman, Patricia E NHC ALBUQUERQUE 119 132 80 39
    Lunderman, MaryAnn NHC ALBUQUERQUE 275 83 257 18
    Pardo, Raul C NHC ALBUQUERQUE 214 93 196 18
    Van Vleck, Deborah J NHC ALBUQUERQUE 123 160 113 10
    Begley, David J NHC BALTIMORE 62 46 56 6
    Chin, Stanley K NHC BALTIMORE 168 114 162 6
    Diamond, Yvette N NHC BALTIMORE 53 43 51 2
    Farnes, Milagros NHC BALTIMORE 141 66 129 12
    Guida, Richard E NHC BALTIMORE 94 112 88 6
    Haaversen, Hortensia NHC BALTIMORE 152 118 140 12
    Henningfeld, Andrew NHC BALTIMORE 78 78 69 9
    Kennedy, Theodore P NHC BALTIMORE 65 47 60 5
    Levey, Lawrence NHC BALTIMORE 146 106 136 10
    McNamara, MaryJoan NHC BALTIMORE 119 97 93 26
    Pang, David S NHC BALTIMORE 160 127 138 22
    Staller, Scott M NHC BALTIMORE 121 141 103 18
    Wakshul, Susan NHC BALTIMORE 79 56 74 5
    Whang, Jennifer NHC BALTIMORE 35 45 29 6
    Armstrong, Paul R NHC CHICAGO 125 168 114 11
    Donovan, Sr., Joseph P NHC CHICAGO 185 83 174 11
    Gaffaney, George NHC CHICAGO 120 132 104 16
    Grippo, Theodore W NHC CHICAGO 55 122 51 4
    LaRiccia, Rebecca NHC CHICAGO 70 95 57 13
    Level, Lorenzo NHC CHICAGO 107 95 73 34
    Marceille, Curt NHC CHICAGO 54 133 49 5
    McGuire, Michael R NHC CHICAGO 149 119 143 6
    Michaelson, Shirley M NHC CHICAGO 133 52 114 19
    Moore, Ayrie NHC CHICAGO 65 36 60 5
    Nagle, Kim Soo NHC CHICAGO 95 154 76 19
    Parkhurst, Beverly S NHC CHICAGO 157 51 149 8
    Pope, John S NHC CHICAGO 70 162 63 7
    Poulose, Mary Ann NHC CHICAGO 90 155 72 18
    Sharrard, Anne NHC CHICAGO 41 58 36 5
    Skidmore, David NHC CHICAGO 24 24 23 1
    Withum, Mary F NHC CHICAGO 135 130 119 16
    Anderson, JoAnn L. NHC FALLS CHURCH 25 48 22 3
    Brinkley, Joseph L NHC FALLS CHURCH 176 133 160 16
    Bunce, Elliott NHC FALLS CHURCH 125 126 117 8
    Dummer, Rosanne M NHC FALLS CHURCH 164 81 148 16
    Fuller, Roxanne NHC FALLS CHURCH 73 77 72 1
    Gibbs, Julia D NHC FALLS CHURCH 143 111 119 24
    Hamel, Gregory M NHC FALLS CHURCH 179 207 146 33
    Manico, William M NHC FALLS CHURCH 204 148 199 5
    Miranda, Angela NHC FALLS CHURCH 79 211 61 18
    Murdock, John NHC FALLS CHURCH 175 32 170 5
    Patterson, Troy M NHC FALLS CHURCH 12 45 11 1
    Woody, Stephen R NHC FALLS CHURCH 120 114 106 14
    Barnett, Ben NHC ST LOUIS 145 130 127 18
    Butler, Robert M NHC ST LOUIS 118 29 114 4
    Christensen, Timothy J NHC ST LOUIS 62 114 57 5
    Clayton, Mark A NHC ST LOUIS 149 149 139 10
    Dowling, John M NHC ST LOUIS 65 74 59 6
    Doyle, Joseph R NHC ST LOUIS 98 100 92 6
    Faust, Jerry NHC ST LOUIS 150 128 130 20
    Gaughen, Paul NHC ST LOUIS 165 87 158 7
    Groeneveld-Meijer, Lisa NHC ST LOUIS 165 128 151 14
    Haigler, Jr., Whitfield NHC ST LOUIS 171 81 164 7
    Hazel, Michael NHC ST LOUIS 130 61 124 6
    Jarvis, Valencia NHC ST LOUIS 96 143 89 7
    Merchant, George W NHC ST LOUIS 40 101 34 6
    Prinsloo, C. H NHC ST LOUIS 117 127 109 8
    Simmons, D'Lisa NHC ST LOUIS 197 125 188 9
    Stripling, Clarence D NHC ST LOUIS 78 60 74 4
    Sullivan, Neil NHC ST LOUIS 117 141 106 11
    Wright, Charlotte A NHC ST LOUIS 39 77 38 1

    4:46 PM, May 09, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It is very simple. NHC will not go away, they turn out too many decisions. What will happen is the right to deny a video hearing. Your Hearing is here at this time in this place, you will attend or the claim is dismissed. Look at the ALJ decididing imigration claims, nearly all video, no options.

    9:17 AM, May 10, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Anon 2:12 PM, are you out of your mind? Are you going to tell me that an ALJ with a pay rate less than 15-20% is going to pay your case if it's well put-together? You've apparently never done hearings with ALJs in Queens, or Dallas, New Orleans. Those ALJs don't care about briefs and having all the evidence. They just deny claims, period.

    11:47 AM, May 10, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    anon 2 11:47...

    no, I am not "out of my mind." The ALJ's that you cited will pay claimants who are disabled.

    People who advocate the right to know who the judge is are simply trying to game the system to gain a favorable result...knowing full well that some judges apply the law (15-20% FF) while others apply the rule of compassion (80% FF).

    11:58 AM, May 10, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Yeah, right. Try reading Federal Court Social Security/SSI cases in those districts and see how well those ALJs are applying the law. ALJs who apply the law correctly do not get remanded as much as these ALJs do.

    There are only about 12 ALJs in the country with allowance rates under 20%. Are you actually saying that fewer than 1% of all ALJs are applying the law correctly? Because if you are, then you are obviously the one who does not understand the law.

    12:32 PM, May 10, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Anon 2:12 It is not about “forum shopping” – it is about outliers, and the latter has statistical support.
    Did you really say to Anon 11:47 AM, May 10, 2012 that ALJ’s that he cited [Queens, Dallas, et al] will pay claimants who are disabled?
    In Dallas? Are you kidding me? Recently, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued the first of two reports looking at Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) who are outliers. The 12 ALJs with the lowest allowance rates (between 8.55 and 25.1 percent) were located in 11 hearing offices in 6 regions. This includes the Dallas Region (mainly Dallas North). There are many compassionate, competent ALJs in Dallas who actually follow the regulations and pay deserving cases. A minority skews the statistics for the whole ODAR; I have seen them do it for years. Look at the stats. Anon 2:12 is not an ALJ or is one who prefers the 15% and below allowance rate, which is beyond any reasonable compliance with the law, or regulations.

    5:23 PM, May 10, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I have had the feeling sometime that the Washington 'elite' consistently believe in and support policies that tend to flood the market with laborers. That tends to suppress wages/salaries/benefits and leads to more profit for companies/corporations. . . .

    10:27 PM, May 10, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The sad thruth is that there are "incompetent" ALJs as well as "incompetent" reps (attys and non-attys). ALJs who are like that have an agenda (primarily political), reps who are like that have a character flow (primarily laziness). I'm tired of ALJs who believe that most clts are there to get free $ and I'm tired of reps who claim that "all" of their clients are disabled because "I just take such cases"... SO, this thread, about VTC, NHC, etc, etc. - is nothing but a waste of time. Get to work fellow ALJs and reps. There are SOME clts out there who truly are disabled and need help of both ALJs and reps.

    9:04 AM, May 11, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Want to lower the number of claims and Hearings both VTC and in person? Revoke the right of Long Term Disability Companies from taking Past Due Benefits from SSDI claims. End the quiet subsidy and filing numbers will drop. LTDs have helped to create the "super firms" that represent the Claimant when LTD forces them to file for SSDI. Surely Congress will stand up to large insurance companies who utilize SSDI as a way to offset losses on LTD payouts.

    11:28 AM, May 11, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Nagging things, statistics.

    2:43 PM, May 11, 2012  

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