Feb 6, 2017

"Not Sustainable"

     This comes from a trusted source but I can't verify it otherwise:
1. The ODAR [Office of Disability Adjudication and Review] leadership had a call with all of ODAR management and a separate call with the decision writers. They were told the state of the current way of doing business is not sustainable model. So as part of this, the decision writers were told they had to increase their productivity as there is a backlog of about 52,000 cases that continues to grow. In addition management has to start writing up decisions. This applies to management in ODAR offices that have some training on writing up decisions. It is my understanding the most group supervisors have this training so they have started writing up decisions. 
2. SSA [Social Security Administration] slapped a freeze yesterday on all competitive promotions after 1/22/17. This applies to all promotions except career ladder promotions. An example is that you can’t promote someone into a group supervisor position or Hearings Office Director. This also applies to Field Offices. It is Agency wide. This comes from interpreting President Trump’s decision to put a freeze on hiring. That freeze also applies to promotions.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

I didn't hear the words "not sustainable" on the call. But if you read in between the lines I think that's accurate.

Anonymous said...

About damn time. Get with it or get gone! Drain the swamp!!!

Anonymous said...


Drain the swamp? Sounds like someone fell for a con-man...

There is a backlog in writing cases because the Agency hired over 200 ALJ's with no other supporting staff. Mix in poor instructions that result in taking more time to write a decision, performance metrics that do not reflect reality, attorneys being micromanaged by non-attorneys, quality review demanding every non-severe impairment and every opinion be addressed in a fully favorable decision, no senior attorney adjudicator program, etc. Yep, that's what you get: increased writing backlog.

If there's any draining, it should start with Agency management from the top down! Talk about ineffective and not seeing the writing on the wall!

Anonymous said...

The backlog is all through the system. Has anyone else had trouble getting their attorney's fees in a timely manner?

Anonymous said...

@11:14

That depends on if you consider 6-12 month, varying randomly and without explanation, delays as untimely.

Anonymous said...

Forget the writing backlog--y'all reps are going to love what our unworked case/having cases worked up before scheduling/hearing problem is going to do to you, accelerated by the imposition of the new 75-day notice rule. Hint: expect to not be called before scheduling and having to ask for many more postponements due to unavailability with pushback from us to prove it.

Anonymous said...

ODAR leadership and management in ALL the Regional offices, and Falls Church, VA, should also immediately be put to work writing ALJ decisions. These individuals ALL seem to think they know how to write decisions so well. Presently, they have set unreasonable production metrics/ quotas. Over the past few years, they were so ridiculously obsessed with quality they frequently kicked decisions back and forth demanding the most tedious, often non-substantive changes, to the most routine decisions, including fully favorables. These individuals are the idiots who are responsible for and created the backlog in the first place.

If anyone in ODAR should be put to work writing ALJ decisions, it is these nut cases. They overreacted to the Huntington debacle and swung the pendulum so far to the quality corner, they gummed up the whole process over unnecessary, tedious changes to decisions, and ALJ decision writing instructions. They destroyed the Senior Attorney Program and issuance of O-T-R's in general, and perpetuated a culture of denial out of unjustified fear too many favorable decisions were being issued, regardless of the evidence. They enforced such nonsense under their usual punitive umbrella, as this seems to be the only way they know how to manage. As a result, the backlog grew and grew and is now unprecedented. Even though numerous current and retired employees with many more years of hands on ODAR experience desperately tried to get these individuals to make necessary changes statistically known to have reduced backlogs in the past, these idiots adamantly refused to implement ANY of them without ever providing support for their refusal. The degree of their intransigence was the epitome of malfeasance. Meanwhile, they continued to push such initiatives as using AJ's, or term limited ALJ's, knowing very well such proposals had no chance of being implemented quick enough to reduce the backlog.

As the backlog continued to grow, these so called leaders and managers suddenly swung the pendulum all the way to the opposite corner. Instead of demanding quality and near perfection, now it is exclusively all about numbers, quality be damned. The numbers/metrics are unreasonable, which they fully know from peer reviewed scientific studies, which they refuse to accept. Again, they brow beat employees over these ridiculous metrics, and further demoralize the workforce, as they only know how and believe management should be based on punishment.

MANDATE TO TRANSITION TEAM: These are the individuals who must go, i.e., ODAR LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT - ALL OF THEM! They alone are responsible for the unprecedented backlog. Keeping any onboard will only sink the ODAR ship even further.

Anonymous said...

lol @ 11:42.

Yeah, it's ODAR mgmt. completely and not that about 75 ODAR offices have staff-to-ALJ ratios barely above 3.0 and writer-to-ALJ (counts SAAs, btw) ratios below, at, or barely above 1.0 with the overall nationwide ratios far below the 4.0-4.5 and ~ 1.5 ratios we say we need.

Yep, all we have is just an ODAR mgmt. problem and not a "our budget is literally a billion or more short of where it needs to be and we are tens of thousands employees short SSA-wide" problem.

You are clueless.

Anonymous said...

@11:42 AM: Too long didn't read

Anonymous said...

@2:25

Typical of ODAR Management and their paid rent-a-boys. If you can claim, "Too long, didn't read," the I suppose you think you cannot be held responsible for your intransigence in ignoring all recommendations by current and retired employees about known wAys to reduce the backlog.

Folks, this type of claim is representative of ODAR Management and Leadership and speaks to why they are so incompetent.

Anonymous said...

If tl;dr, I'll save you the trouble. It is the same aimless rhetoric that he/she keeps presenting on just about every topic. Except no mention of discrimination. Yet.

Anonymous said...

@3:26

The TROLL has jumped threads again.

Please DO NOT feed the TROLL!

TROLL = WHACK JOB.

Anonymous said...

@2:25 who stated 11:42's comment was, "Too long didn't read (tldr): LAZY A$$.

@3:26 who supports 2:25's laziness: DUMB A$$.

Anonymous said...

What most fail to grasp is that the political paws on the levers WANT the current system to fail.

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, ALJ's actually wrote their own decisions. I'm pretty sure they still have the right to do so. After all, they do sign them as if it was actually their opinion.

Anonymous said...

If you want to rattle the tree: Make all ALJ's Hearing Officers. Make all agency senior attorneys, that want to be, Hearing Officers. Institute mandatory briefs be submitted, don't keep the record open for eons. Then, allow Hearing Officers to issue bench decisions on the record. Actually apply the substantial evidence standard on any appeal and remand only based on SUBSTANTIAL evidence. That will cut the backlog like a hot knife through cold butter.

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Anonymous said...

ALL the non-attorney HOD and group supervisors with less than 2 years of experience writing decisions have been undermining productivity in the hearing offices for years. They've been able to brown-nose their way into management positions, and as a group (with a few exceptions) they sorely lack the knowledge, skills, and experience to supervise the hearing office attorney staff. The hearing offices have lost good attorneys over the years because they don't want to work for these agency hacks. ODAR should limit non-attorney managers to the supervision of other non attorney support staff . They are absolutely unqualified to provide any kind of useful leadership for the attorney hearing office staff. Assign attorneys who know what they're doing to supervise the attorneys.

Anonymous said...

@7:33

AMEN!

My sentiments exactly.

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Anonymous said...

Because we all know how well attorneys get along, all the Kumbaya singing gets annoying.

Anonymous said...

I'm an attorney manager in ODAR and I think many writers aren't writing nearly enough quantity (based on six years of writing/senior attorneying before someone wants to chime in about my lack of experience) and the quality is not good.

Anonymous said...

I am very happy with the quality of the decisions....my USDC practice has really taken off. Bringing in new inexperienced writers is good for business.

Anonymous said...

1:14,

Where do you practice?

Anonymous said...

@9:48, Feb 8

Oh look everyone, this ODAR Attorney-Manager has fully consumed the ZODAR Management Koolaid, and is pushing the numbers/quantity/quotas hook, line and sinker. It would be funny if it weren't so sad. I will give you this, however, "Congratulations, you sucked up to the right Powers that Be and are now officially a chosen Favorite/Pet. "

This being said, here's a dose of reality from an Attorney with decades of ODAR experience: ODAR Management has completely and totally demoralized the workforce, especially the SA's and Attorney decision writers for the past several years by 1) Allowing non-attorneys to supervise them and manage an entire Hearings Office; 2) Inconsistent and poor management in regards to the vast pendulum swing to quality and all the ridiculous nuances and tediousness which slowed processing and led to the unprecedented backlog, to the vast pendulum swing all the way to the direct opposite with the emphasis on numbers/quantity/quotas, and employing a punitive management style akin to browbeating writers with a stick, threatening to start the termination process in 30 days if their numbers do not go up, threatening to take telework from them, etc.; 3) Destroying the Senior Attorney Program for all practical purposes, which was one of the Best Initiatives ever implemented in ODAR when run correctly without the naysayers who wanted to destroy it from day one; 4) Persistent unnecessary micromanagement of the work of SA's and AA's; 5) The complete lack of Professionalism by which ODAR SA's and AA's are treated not only by ODAR Management, but by the entire staff, as well, e.g., they are often viewed with disdain by non-attorney decision writers and managers; 6) Paying non-attorney decision writers the same salary as AA's, despite the extreme difference in education, skills and abilities, and requiring ALL Attorneys to maintain a law license, which means CLE classes, annual licensing fees, etc., not to mention allowing non-attorney decision writers with more years of Agency seniority first choice when it comes to such matters as office space, new furniture, etc., (Apparently there has been recent changes for the better on this last issue in some field offices); 7) ODAR Managements often flagrant engagement in PPP's, willingness to skirt around Merit System Principles, and Retaliatory Conduct in an effort to select favorites for rewards or promotions, or force out any employees they simply do not like, regardless of the pettiness of the reason.

So, ODAR Attorney- Manager, consider these issues as you consume the Agency Koolaid, and ask yourself again why SA's and AA's feel so demoralized. Did you like to be excessively micromanaged when you were a SA and AA; did you like to be browbeat over tedious non-substantive quality issues in decisions you wrote and spend needless time going back and rewriting your decision over nuances that did not matter, or browbeat about numbers/quotas and threatened in a punitive manner if you did not measure up? What about non-attorneys and GS's who are now writing decisions being given the easiest cases, while SA's and AA's get one dog case after the next, and typically earn less salary because they do not have the
seniority? Much more can be said about this, but surely, you get my point.

Anonymous said...

If there were some first rate lawyers to work with instead of the bottom of the barrel maybe ODAR would have something to work with. We all know that the tip top of every Ivy League class lines up to go to ODAR. They just hang out hoping to sue the agency for some slight or unfair termination. SAD!

Anonymous said...

@2:47

What is your proof?

Once again, you continue to demoralize the Attorneys in your workforce. This must be a non-attorney ODAR Manager, or a non-Attorney wannabe manager Who else would be so conniving, ruthless and demeaning to their own employees and coworkers? You people will stop at nothing. I have worked with many fine, talented Attorneys at ODAR. I would never describe any as, "Bottom of the barrel." Quite the contrary, let me remind you only the best and brightest are able to get accepted to law school. Thus, even if you correctly assume ODAR's Attorneys are, "The bottom of the barrel," they are still among the nations best and brightest any way you look at it. The reasons Attorneys chose to accept employment at ODAR is vast and varied. For you to castigate all of them in the same light reveals just how ignorant you are, not to mention the sense of power and control to which you elevate yourself to from your ODAR non-attorney Management position, or non-attorney wannabe. Regardless, the real tragedy in your remarks is you denigrate the entire Agency, all the Attorneys who work within it, and the entire SSA disability hearings process itself. You are supposed to be a steward of the Agency, and clearly, you are not.

I know of no Attorneys who have successfully worked for ODAR for decades who are suing the Agency for pleasure. The only ones I am aware in that position are individuals who have been grossly mistreated through no fault of their own by rogue ODAR Managers who have repeatedly engaged in PPP's, ignored Merit System Principles, and wrongfully decided to target them for petty, deceitful reasons. We have all witnessed this recently played out on this board. Indeed, give me one reason why a successful ODAR Attorney with decades of Agency experience should not enforce their rights, especially against rogue ODAR Managers who engaged in both illegal and criminal conduct against them? A successful ODAR Attorney with decades of Agency experience has a property right in their Federal job. So, by your way of thinking, this seasoned ODAR Attorney is supposed to quietly walk away, and watch the highest leaders and officials in in the Agency Ben over backwards to protect and shield the rogue managers from ANY Accountability whatsoever? I can assure you this will NEVER happen.

Anonymous said...

I don't work for the agency you halfwit I am a taxpayer that has noticed that the more lawyers we get in the system the longer it takes for we the people to get our benefits.

With a mean average of around a 3.5GPA for the top 75 law schools its about the same or lower for the top 10 in Engineering! So, not the best and brightest by a long shot pookie.

I can assure you that you are a fool, and if once ever in your life you looked beyond your own self interest you would find an entire world that doesn't care one hoot what you think or what your opinions are! So SUE me bottom feeder

Anonymous said...

@3:52 is an Ignorant TROLL who knows nothing about what it takes to become an Attorney, from getting accepted to a Law School to passing the Bar Exam and obtaining a Law License. Individuals accepted into law school who go on to pass the Bar and become licensed Attorneys are among the nations best and brightest. This is not say some of the nations best and brightest do not go into other fields such as Engineering, Medical profession, etc., but that Attorneys are AMONG the nations best and brightest. Certainly, Attorneys at ODAR are on an entirely different level than their non-attorney managers and coworkers. This is the dichotomy of our original conversation.

If you do nor care what my, or anyone else's opinion is, why are you reading and commenting on an Internet blog. Apparently, you seem to believe we should all read your stupid remarks, but not post any. What an IDIOT you are TROLL.

Anonymous said...

You halfwit twit! If you were the best and brightest why are you battling a troll on a comments page. What a spoon!

Anonymous said...

I was NOT battling a TROLL. In my last comment, I simply pointed out we are dealing with an Ignorant TROLL. The nature of the last two remarks are also inconsistent with the previous comments and conversation. The last two comments reveal the individual has absolutely no knowledge about ODAR and is a TROLL.

PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE TROLL!

Anonymous said...

I have never ever said I was with ODAR, I am NOT now or EVER have been with ODAR you stupid lugnut. If you are an example of what they hire no wonder things are messed up like they are, you cant read, comprehend or understand anything can you?

Anonymous said...

Please don't tease the mentally ill, or it will keep posting about perceived injustices from the agency ad nauseam.

Anonymous said...

Mentally ill/ TROLL comments are @ 2:47, 3:52, 4:27, and 4:43.

Prior thereto, the conversation was originally in response to 9:48's comment from the ODAR Manager and the decades seasoned ODAR Attorney @ 2:00 and 3:29.

The Management rented mentally ill TROLL then interfered to destroy the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Sa27, you are the only one feeding the trolls. It works like this. They say something inflammatory against attorneys, odar attorneys, or you, and you launch your usual tirade using the same points and examples. They laugh at your disproportionate and predictable response. I would be surprised if you didn't call me a troll, a kool aid drinker, management rent-boy, etcetera just by pointing this out.

Believe it or not but I am sympathetic to your plight. But you are not doing yourself any favors by "browbeating" us with your personal stories over and over again.

Anonymous said...

@1:47

Stop referring to every comment which references SA's situation, either directly, or indirectly, to SA-27!

SA-27 is NOT feeding the TROLLS, nor is she browbeating anyone. Her situation is very real; has been going on for more than 3 years with no end in sight; and Agency Management from the top down has persistently covered-up wrongdoing and misconduct relevant to her situation and refused to hold KNOWN wrongdoers accountable.

Further, Agency Management continues to be very adversarial; adamantly refuses to change failed punitive management style and policies; and is intransigent to recommendations from current and retired ODAR employees with years of hands on field office experience, and this includes SA-27, Managers, ALJ's, SA's, AA's, etc.

SA-27 and all those who TRULY support her, will remain RELENTLESS until such time necessary changes are recognized and made by ODAR Management, and there is full accountability for misconduct and wrongdoing. This is not about feeding Ignorant TROLLS, but advocating for what MUST BE DONE.


Anonymous said...

SA-27 is a troll and has ruined this blog.

Anonymous said...

@11:49

OMG! SA-27 has stirred up the TROLLS!

Hooray! Relentless, she and her supporters will remain.

SA-27 has NOT ruined this blog. She has outed ODAR''s dirty laundry for the world to see because she knows from 27+ years there is nothing TPTB hate more!

TROLLS and TPTB have destroyed this blog with their ignorant attacks on her. After all, you are the ONLY ones bothered by SA-27.

Anonymous said...

what do yall handicap the odds for SA 27 being the poster for all supposed non-SA 27 posts that suspiciously sound just like her and sing her praises? 1:1.01 is my guess.

Anonymous said...

You can tell by the horrid writing style and repeated themes that it is her again and again and again and again and again.......

Anonymous said...

@1:44 & 1:55

What do you know, the TROLLS ARE MALIGNANT AND FEED ON THEMSELVES!

Anonymous said...

@1:55

"Horrid writing style," of SA-27?

Ha! I have no doubt whatsoever many ALJ's wish SA-27 were still writing for them than many who are, especially in comparison to the non-attorneys.

You want to talk about, "Horrid writing?" It certainly does not take a rocket scientist to discern the ignorance and God awful writing in the TROLLS' comments. You guys are so stupid. LMAO.

Anonymous said...

and now we know why there is a backlog. this is what they hire!

Anonymous said...

Throwing more bodies at the problem isn't going to fix it. The problem does indeed start with absolutely horrible executive and middle management.

Tom Sawyer said...

It is an agency overwhelmingly having with a lot of irrelevant components, departments, and tax-wasting job positions, especially at HQ and Regional Offices. For example: The OCREO Offices will not assist but instead intimidate Asian-American employees who filed complaints while contradictory touting the overused HR term "Diversity". Currently, the environment is very hostile for less vocal ethnic groups of such and the union is looking the other way. Very Sad!!

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Anonymous said...

ODAR has too many useless mgt. jobs. Many of tHe non-attorney managers cannot even write decent decisions which makes one wonder how they can provide any useful mgt. of attorney or non-attorney writers.