Your source for news affecting the U.S. Social Security Administration/© Charles T. Hall
From my 5 minute review of this report it's pretty much telling the agency go look and see what you did in the past that worked and there's really one main thing that worked in the past that actually reduced the backlog and that was the senior attorney program as it was originally established under #7 so enough already just bring back the original senior attorney program. it's malfeasance not to
Kind of reminds me of Big 12 expansion plans: After months of discussions, false hope, proposals, suggestions, etc. ... the powers in charge have decided to make no real changes!
@1:24PMMy sentiments, exactly. The original Senior Attorney (SA) Program which began in 1995 under the STDP Initiative was extremely successful in reducing the disability case backlog. The numbers do not lie. Moreover, the success of the STDP SA Program occurred against all odds insofar as certain ALJ's, and SSA/ODAR managers, especially those who descended from Operations and DDS, despised the program, and were hellbent on destroying it, which is exactly what they did over the years by placing more and more restrictions on the SA Program to the point where it all but ceases to exist in the Hearing Offices today, and what remains resembles nothing of the original STDP SA Program. The NAT SA Adjudication Team is a joke. The small number of SA's on the NAT cannot possibly be expected to reduce the backlog. What I believe the SSA OIG should have done based on the findings in this Audit is hold top Management accountable for the piss poor decisions they have made to address the backlog, such as those pertaining to the SA Program. The Audit indicates Managements explanation for placing so many restrictions on the SA Program over the years has to do with alleged poor quality of decisions issued by SA's. Yet, I have never seen any substantive proof the quality of SA decisions through the years differed proportionately from the quality of ALJ decisions over the same period. Moreover, it should not be necessary to write an extremely detailed decision in O-T-R favorable decisions. Any adjudicator ought to be able to succinctly explain the evidence and the laws and regulations which support the decision and be done with it. These cases are cream of the crop pay cases screened from the top. The truth is many should have been paid at the Initial and Reconsideration levels. Managers, particularly those who never liked the SA Program from its inception, used the Huntington debacle as reason to further restrict the SA Program to its current comatose state when SA's, nor their decisions, had anything to do with the debacle.What's shocking is why haven't these top Managers acted on what they very well know from the past has worked to reduce the backlog? Why have they all but destroyed the SA Program despite the overwhelming backlog? How many times over the past few years have these Managers been urged by numerous commenters on this blog to reinstate the SA Program immediately to reduce the backlog? What is wrong with these Managers? The Audit opines they have spent a lot of time on this or that Initiative, many of which have not worked and have done nothing to immediately reduce the backlog, yet they have persistently refused to reinstate the original STDP SA Program to address the backlog, an already established and proven method to reduce the backlog. There can be no other explanation at this point than Malfeasance. NOTE TO SSA OIG: Do the right thing as watchdogs and hold these Managers fully accountable. For God's sake, claimants who qualify for SSA Disability benefits are dying before they receive such benefits, and their deaths are on the hands of these Managers.
Agreed they should bring back the ability to handle more OTRs and not place so many restrictions on them that it won't have any significant effect on the backlog. It's not paying down the backlog to approve legitimate claims without having to wait for a hearing.
The SA program makes sense but what role do the different unions in Odar play in all this? If I was a case tech this program might give me hope that more writer jobs will open up. But if I was an Alj I wouldn't like the idea of a program that takes away the cream of the crop cases. And it seems like the agency is in lock step with the ALJs in thinking that only hiring more judges is the solution. Not more writers or other staffing.
@10:54No doubt hiring more ALJs is needed with the current backlog. If anyone representing the ALJs balked at enabling more OTRs I would be disappointed however. It would be a clear indicator to me that any such complainers were putting their own best interests far in front of that of the claimants, who would fare much better if their claims could be approved sooner via OTR, and the public interest via the improved efficiency of such a system.
ALJs do not agree that hiring more will solve or even help solve the problem - we need more staff!!! SCT and writers are desperately needed in every office - but there is a "hiring freeze"due to no adequate budget. Congress surely does not care.And letting those that are there work at home 3 days a week? What a joke.
Off topic, but the CPI-W for September was just released, so it looks like a 0.4% COLA for next year (I get 0.351% increase in the CPI-W from Q3 2014 to Q3 2016, which I assume will be rounded up to 0.4%). The official number should be released later this morning.
News outlets are reporting that the COLA is 0.3%, so I guess they rounded down. Nothing yet on the SSA website.
Its funny how they blame the death of the AAJ doing hearings for overpayements on budget when it clearly died because of the union, the reason the subcommittee had questions was because of the union. AALJ is basically touting it as their biggest achievement in recent memory, it has been front page news on their website for months.
agree at this point we don't need more ALJ's we need more staff and especially writers. Our office has 350 cases waiting to be written (5% of our total pending) and thats not enough of a backlog compared apparently to other offices to get any outside help...
Grant more cases prior to the hearings plain and simple. Based on over 3000 hearings, I believe these 2 main truths:1. 25 percent should be granted automatically (e.g. compassionate allowances, severe cancer, etc.)2. 75 percent there is gray area. But of those 75 percent probably half of them could be granted with just a little inspection (e.g. claimants over 50). Seems like ODAR relies on attorneys to spot OTR cases. Trust me, I have flagged numerous OTR worthy cases only to submit the OTR and nothing happens.Maybe they should have a special task force automatically for those backlog cases over 50. I am sure a lot could be granted without the need for a hearing.
OIG reviews are pretty much a joke. Nobody ever listens to them, and rarely do agencies pay more than lip service to their findings.http://www.fedsmith.com/2016/10/17/agencies-fail-to-implement-15222-oig-recommendations/
Here's a crazy idea: How about withholding raises, promotions and bonuses of senior management until the backlogs are reduced to less than a year, including DDS! You would have to closely monitor the results, however. DDS needs to approve more of the more obvious cases in addition to more OTRs. If you really don't want DDS to approve more cases, fine. Then streamline cases for OTR if the claimant's statement would grid for approval if found "credible." DDS uses "not completely credible" too often as an excuse to deny.
@ 6:51Working at home is not the problem. I am just as productive at home as I am in the office. Period. The people that slack at home also slacked in the office, so don't yell fire when there is none.
Does working from home often create IT problems that eat up a lot of time? I know that's been a problem in other agencies.
Here's an even crazier idea. Try submitting briefs to support OTR's. As a Judge, I will pay one in a heart beat if is truly a pay case. I think 25% of my cases could be OTR's IF the reps would do a brief and lay it out.. Just a thought.
the metrics show that since telework was expanded to 3 days per week, writer productivity has remained the same, if not increased over working in the office. conversely, SCT pulling has SUBSTANTIALLY declined since they've been allowed to "work" at home. But forget about doing anything to correct this. You can't touch the all powerful AFGE.
Since it appears most ALJs are now first reviewing files a day or two prior to the hearing, the concept of submitting an OTR doesn't seem to make much sense these days. Nothing wrong with submitting a well crafted brief to support the claim, but to think this will reduce the backlog appears to be fantasy.
1138 is on to something, no awards for managers period and they should have do line work for one year every 3rd year
@11:33AMI fully agree with 11:38. I would modify your suggestion managers perform line work for one year every third year to whenever the circumstances demand it, which is almost always. The problem is ODAR has too many supervisors/managers. When HPI rolled out in 2000, more higher paying jobs and a career ladder was created for the non-attorneys. In addition to the HOCALJ, HPI created the Hearing Office Director (HOD) position with GS-14 salary; and several Group Supervisors (GS) in each Hearing Office. Most Hearing Offices have about 3 GS's, and they supervise a group of decision writers, SCT's, CT's, and on down. The truth is ODAR does not need, and has never needed, this many managers. Every Hearing Office is top heavy with managers. The individuals occupying those positions were traditionally line workers. While I am not usually one to blame unions, I do blame AFGE for this fiasco. They were incessant about improving the pay and having a career ladder for non-attorneys, qualifications be damned. Over the years, many support staffers have simply moved up through the ranks, regardless of their educational background or writing skills. This has been an absolute disaster. In addition, this has led to non-attorneys supervising attorneys which is asirtuation which should never exist - period.Before HPI, we had the HOCALJ; the Supervisory Attorney, a GS-13 position, which supervised all the Attorneys and Paralegal Specialists (decision writers); and the Hearing Office Manager (HOM), a GS-11 position, which supervised the remaining support staff. This worked much better, and was not so unnecessarily management/top heavy. ODAR Hearing Offices do not need 2-4 GS's running around with a handful of line employees from the various components to supervise. This is just nuts. Think about it - Most of these GS's would be line employees doing the work which needs to be done before HPI. Now, they waste time doing unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork which one person could just as easily do, and sitting in on management conference calls from Regional and Central Offices, which is also a needless waste of time. The pre-HPI bureaucratic structure worked so much better. It was not top heavy, and left more people performing the necessary line work to reduce the backlog. In addition, HPI created situations where you have non-attorneys managing Attorneys and Senior Attorneys, which is just plain wrong and should NEVER be allowed.We must return to the pre-HPI bureaucratic structure ASAP. This would free up a bunch of unnecessary GS's to do line work, and the GS-14 HOD position should be returned to the former GS-11 HOM position. AFGE was wrong about what they demanded for HPI. In fact, most non-attorneys in the Federal government and ODAR were already well paid based on their qualifications. To the contrary, it is those with Advanced college degrees, such as Attorneys, whose salary and career ladder potential lags behind the private sector.
@1:59PM Good luck with that! Rolling back HPI to the good ole' (boy) days isn't happening. What should be happening is hiring managers who know and understand the roles, duties and responsibilities of their employees, hold employees accountable for their contribution or lack of contribution to the hearings process, set a good example for civility and responsive public service, and yes, when necessary, lead by doing - rolling up their sleeves and chipping in to help the entire team. There are many individuals and entire offices that do their best every day to serve the 1 million people waiting for hearings and decisions. I do not begrudge any of them the pay they receive to do their jobs, because any type of human services work with this kind of volume and relentless pressure can burn out even the best of us. What I question is the hierarchical management and power structure with entire components comprised of GS13-15 employees and SESers who do not perform direct public service, the many "management analysts" and "program analysts" who don't actually do any of this and are not accountable to anyone outside the agency. Yet, field offices are closing, we can't hire enough CRs or staff, and it takes years before actions are taken against poor employees and managers because all of this has to go up a very long chain of command.
10:33: I submit an OTR brief for every single case. If I am lucky, one in 25 is granted. Then when we have the hearing and most of my cases are eventually approved, the basis of the approval is the same as the case theory I outlined in my OTR brief. My clients should not have to wait so long to get their benefits.
@9:40, how many times at the Hearing do you hear, "...there was an OTR Brief in the file, I didn't see that..." or something to that effect. Brief on every claim, reference to the Exhibited file, it is read as often as a cellphone contract of Facebook user conditions.
@9:021:59 here. This has nothing to do with going back to the, "Good old days." You and I are actually in agreement in that ODAR has too many managers, many of whom are accountable to no one. HPI is the mechanism which created this monstrosity. I have been in the position to watch HPI for several years, and to have worked under the pre-HPI structure for about the same amount of time. The bottom line which we both seem to agree is ODAR has far too many managers - period. Many of these managers are unnecessary and costly in terms of the salaries paid, especially to those automatically promoted through the ranks regardless of their educational background and writing skills. In the pre-HPI era, OHA/ODAR had fewer managers in the Hearing Offices, and the truth is this was a better set-up than what we have now. When considering the entire chain of command, there have always been far too many managers than what is necessary. Many of these individuals are paid handsome salaries, do little to nothing, and are accountable to no one. This hierarchical structure creates more obstacles and interferes with running ODAR and the disability components of the Agency. There is a lot of waste. The Agency is far too top heavy.
@10:26 AM - You are correct. And we call ODAR every week after we submit it to be sure someone has reviewed it. I'm convinced they tell us it was denied just to get us to stop calling. It's very frustrating. I have a case right now that is a compassionate allowance (Stage IV liver cancer) and I submitted an OTR on it. It's just sitting there. I'm calling every other day because my client is going to die soon and I would prefer this to be resolved before then. His family has enough to worry about without adding his SSDI claim to it.
@1:59 sounds MAD! Sorry you are not getting promotions...
@4:05Reading comprehension certainly is NOT your strong point. What a Deutsche. Try growing a pair for once. Maturity is obviously something you have never attained.
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