An e-mail from Social Security's Chief Administrative Law Judge Debra Bice:
Jack and I have spoken with many of you over the last few months and know that you share ODAR’s commitment to public service by providing claimants with timely and policy compliant dispositions. You also have shared some of the challenges you face in doing so. We are aware of the challenges you have been facing, even more so now with the hiring freeze. We are working on many initiatives to help support you, such as new regulations, pre-hearing conferences and case summaries of large files.
Given the current environment, you have asked how many cases we expect every judge to schedule each month. Looking at current data, a majority of you are scheduling an average of 45-50 hearings a month and completing the work in a legally sufficient and policy compliant manner. I know that it takes dedication to manage your docket effectively and I thank each of you. I am asking EVERY judge to schedule hearings generally in the range of an average of 45-50 hearings per month. If you feel comfortable handling more cases and can maintain legal sufficiency and policy compliance in your dispositions, please continue to do, and we thank you. If are not yet scheduling an average of 45-50 cases a month, please try to increase your dockets to do so. This may mean adding a day of hearings every month or an additional hearing to each hearing day. We will continue to evaluate our scheduling expectations for all judges in the future.
For those of you who elect to telework, I am going to advise our HOCALJs that, for the October 2016 to March 2017 telework period, an average of 45-50 scheduled hearings a month generally should be considered “reasonably attainable.” I am also going to discuss again with our HOCALJs the need to consider all extenuating circumstances in considering your telework requests.
This is a crisis time for us. Even with all the headwinds in our face, the public we serve is asking us to do the most we can. I am so proud of all of you. If all judges generally can schedule an average of 45-50 hearings a month or more, hold those hearings absent good cause, and move the cases out of ALJ controlled status timely, we can make headway in reducing the wait time for a decision. I speak for your national leaders, your RCALJs and certainly your HOCALJs. All of us, ALL OF US, are appreciative of all you do. I know sometimes our messages do not always reflect that appreciation, but make no mistake - it is unwavering. Judge Allen and I are proud to be your judicial colleagues.