Feb 28, 2008

More On Appropriations Hearing

From Congressional Quarterly (subscription required):
Astrue recommended lawmakers give him more authority to discipline judges and hold them accountable for productivity. Astrue said some “bad apples” among the judges “tend to be corrosive in the workplace.”

...under questioning from the subcommittee’s chairman, David W. Obey, D-Wis., Astrue said the agency will not be able to process a disability claim faster than nine months, on average, before 2013.

...Obey noted that Astrue had independently requested $76 million more from Congress in fiscal 2009 than President Bush requested for the agency. Astrue said the difference was due in part to differences in cost estimates by SSA and the Office of Management and Budget, and the true difference was more like $20 million, which he called “marginal.”

Astrue drew some additional heat while discussing the administrative law judges. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., charged that the “150 or so” new judges Astrue plans to hire this year would mostly just replace retired judges.

“You’re really not increasing the number of judges at all, are you?”

“Actually, we are ...” Astrue responded, then began to detail the hiring plan. McCollum cut him off.

“Do you have enough judges?” she said.

“We don’t,” he said. “We think the minimum we need on an ongoing basis — and this might be a little low — is 1,250.”

He expects to have 1,175 by the end of the year.

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