Here is one little nugget from Eric Schnaufer's excellent summary of the presentations at yesterday's National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) Conference in Los Angeles that deserves further attention. This was from Lisa de Soto, the Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR):
There is “some debate” about whether there is an adequate ALJ-staff ratio. In FY 2008, the ratio was 1:4.4. With the new hires, the ratio is 1:4.1.
Let me explain this a bit. Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) hear the appeals of Social Security disability claims. There is a humongous backlog of claimants awaiting hearings before ALJs. This is causing great human suffering. People are committing suicide while awaiting hearings. The Commissioner has called the backlog a "disgrace." ALJs are not one man (or woman) shows. They need help, doing things like preparing files and getting out written decisions. The current ratio is 4.4 other employees for each ALJ. Most, but not all, observers think that the 4.4 to 1 ratio is not enough. Social Security has hired some ALJs. More will be hired. Social Security is not adding anything like 4.4 staff members for each ALJ hired, so the staffing ratio will decline from 4.4 staff members per ALJ to 4.1 staff members per ALJ. I know of no one other than Lisa de Soto and Michael Astrue who thinks this decline in the staff ratio is a good idea. Michael Astrue and Lisa de Soto expects each ALJ to produce more decisions even though the staff per ALJ is being cut by about 7%. What is wrong with this picture?