Jul 25, 2007

Astrue At ALJ Conference

There is an anonymous post on the ALJ Improvement Board from someone who says they heard Commissioner Astrue speak today at the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ) conference. The poster says that Astrue hopes to have new ALJs holding hearings by March 2008, that he expects to hire 700-800 support staff for hearing offices and that he hopes to have 1,200 ALJs by the end of the 2008 fiscal year, which would be September 30, 2008. Astrue also is reported to have said that he expects to be able to restart the senior attorney program soon. He is now planning to have only 10-12 ALJs in the national hearing office. They are also planning to open new hearing offices in Alaska, Michigan, Alabama and Florida (two new offices in the Sunshine state).

First, it is optimistic to expect to have new ALJs on the job by next March. I am not sure Social Security will even have a real budget by then, since the President is threatening to veto the budget bill including Social Security. Hiring always takes longer than you think it will. Second, the number of ALJs to be hired seems to be slipping. Astrue was telling Congress not too long ago that he expected to have 1,250 ALJs on board in 2008. That has already slipped to 1,200. Third, I am extremely happy to hear that the senior attorney program will be restarted. I was very afraid that the Office of Management and Budget would never let this see the light of day. Fourth, I am also happy to hear that this "national" hearing office will be small. This is a bad idea. It should not be done at all, but better small than large. New hearing offices are a great idea. Let me suggest that another hearing office is also needed in Fayetteville, NC. I do not think anyone in this area would disagree with that one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With regard to the senior attorney program, it is unclear whether the Commissioner plans to increase the number of senior attorneys for this or just use the ones already in place. If only the current senior attorneys are used, it will make very little difference to the backlog. The regulation under examination by OMB is considered by both OMB and SSA to have no economic impact. To me that makes it seem likely he will just be using the current senior attorney staff. I hope I am wrong.