Your source for news affecting the U.S. Social Security Administration/© Charles T. Hall
ODAR reportedly announced this week that it has a list of several hundred decision writers & senior attorneys whom they are closely scrutinizing for low production. Transition team doesn't like what it sees in the backlog. Because they can't touch aljs (yet) upper management is blaming low producing decision writers and senior attorneys for the backlog. And mid level and line supervisors apparently have free reign to start termination proceedings - 30 day warnings,etc. it has already started. Look forward to an uptick in "timely" draft decisions as well as an attrition in decision writers.
I believe that the low producer has to go through "performance management" first. Not that it ever helps. Managers just want the employee gone so they don't actually help the employee, and don't acknowledge increased productivity, even when it does occur. However, the time it takes does at least allow the employee some time to find employment elsewhere.
When they lose their job(s) they can all go pick lettuce for min wage. That will help our economy I'm sure of it.
Why shouldn't low producers be targeted for replacement?
Assuming the metric that they are being rated on is fair; sure, why not? Big assumption though.
In some business the lowest 10% performers are fired at the end of every fiscal year. Not performing, replaced. If the metric is something like number of decisions written, that seems rather firm. Lowest 10% out.
Except we're not making widgets or selling cars here...
....[thinking] but what happens if you fire "low producers" in the midst of a hiring freeze? hmmmm
So since you are not making cars or widgets a low producer should be allowed to stay on indefinitely? Interesting....
if an organization lets the slackers continue unchecked or those who are no longer able or willing to perform - it would be an abdication of performance standards for all - a major problem here is work at home which is wonderful for many but allows many others to have performance unchecked - while they are NOT working..........when supposed to be at home.ODAR's other management problem is the number of ODAR folks they have made 14s or 13s as project managees or specialists........most of those are doing the work of people a grade or two less........
Slackers are one thing. I agree with you there. But how do you know that the bottom 10% isn't drafting the most comprehensive decisions using terrible instructions as a guide and not just cutting and pasting what the DDS consultant found (which coincidentally is all that is in the instructions)??? That might slow someone down, no?
Lowest 10% is the lowest 10%. Why add modifiers? Write some comprehensive, do some cut and paste. Stay in the top 80% live long and prosper.
Targeting decision writers and SA's by ODAR Management reveals just how misguided and incompetent they are. The problem with ODAR Management is ODAR Management! They are their own worst enemy. If the transition team does not come to this realization and fully comprehend it is ODAR Management, and their abject failure to efficiently and competently manage and run the Agency, which has been on full display now the past several years, the Agency will be pushed further into the ground. Many experienced ODAR employees, retired and current, have repeatedly listed numerous initiatives Management should implement immediately to reduce the backlog on this blog and in communications with Congress only to be met with adamant resistance by Management in response. Interestingly, they have never once bothered to make a substantive, insightful assertion as to why these initiatives, known to have worked in the past, are not even worth considering, let alone doing. Decision writers, SA's and ALJ's are NOT producing widgets on a factory assembly line. They are dealing with cases which frequently have more than 1000 pages of medical and other evidence to read through, and they must do this constantly looking at laptop screens, and laptops which often take in an inordinate amount of time just to go from one page to the next. The quality of ALJ instructions can also widely vary. However, I will state experienced Attorney decision writers writing for ALJ's in their Hearing Office whom they know and are familiar with, are in a much better situation to cope with varied ALJ instructions and not get bogged down by poor instructions, whereas decision writers in the centralized offices do not have familiarity with ALJ's for whom they write. This lack of familiarity does slow even the most experienced decision writers down. Much of the current group of ODAR Management is the most inept I have ever witnessed, especially those pushing this latest agenda. ODAR is NOT a sweat shop, so stop trying to run it like one. Further, ODAR is way too TOP HEAVY with Idiot Manager's who do little work and usurp huge, unearned salaries. ALL of these Manager's from Deputy Commissioners on down should immediately be put to work writing ALJ decisions, and stop running around and constantly pestering employees with punitive threats. Don't any of you understand successful management is all about fostering a positive environment where employee engagement is encouraged, and morale of the workforce of greatest importance? Your Management style died with the stone ages. Your will NEVER be able to retain employees with the punitive management style you engage.
Hey maybe Trump will give these jobs to the out of work coal miner's in West Va. Oh wait my bad they would need an education 1st so never mind.
ODAR MANAGEMENT:Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result = INSANITY!Such other synonyms include incompetence, stupidity, ineptness, ignorance, idiots, clowns ...Feel free to add to the list.
Such other synonyms include incompetence, stupidity, ineptness, ignorance, idiots, clowns ...Feel free to add to the list.________________________________-are we talking about ODAR or our new POTUS and his Administration???
Someone should replace RCALJ in R1 & R2
The first comment is BS. ODAR did no such thing. SSA is not looking to fire decision-writers; it is devoting extra resources to decision writing to tackle the writing backlog.
Did @7:26 participate in the national management call? No bs. True, odar is devoting extra resources with OT (the "carrot" for some writers), but out in the HOs, low and mid level managers are using the "stick" to threaten employees with adverse action if they don't increase production. And those managers (many of whom are not attorneys) do not care how well written and accurate the product is - if it doesn't meet the DWPI formula, then it's deemed to be inferior, poor quality work.
grammar police here. There are.
In what seems like another life, I was a decision writer. Right before I left i received a memo to the effect that my performance was not up to stuff. I objected for two reasons. The first was that counting decisions written as a sole metric in determining production was simplistic at best. The second was that they had my numbers wrong. I was not in the 30th%ile as they stated but actually at about the 60th. There has been a long history of ALJ's and Staff Attorneys blaming each other for problems. ALJ's blame the writers for incompetently written decisions while conveniently forgetting that they had signed the decision. They do have the right to make corrections. Decision writers consistently deride ALJ's (especially newbies) of being ignorant of the law and making decisions that are legally wrong (issues of reopening and DLI particularly) while themselves failing to note that in the end the ALJ makes the decision, not them. The production of decisions has dropped from 2.3 cases per ALJ per day to the present of around 1.8. Judges whine about having to schedule 50 hearings a month to get their three days off (sorry work at home) per week. Judges complain about files having too many pages and taking too long to review. The number of pages is a ridiculous substitute for how much time is needed to decide a case. The ALJ is not a doctor. The ALJ does not have to review the lab tests page by page or review the EKG that occupy page after page in the medical record. The decision of an ALJ on disability or not is determined 90% of the time based on whether or they believe the claimant. Review the record to know what the medical problems are and the basic evidence but decide the case based on what you believe and move on. Any reasonably competent ALJ could had five cases per day, three days a week. Many do. Blaming decision writers, especially the ones in the writing warehouses that produce 25 page decision that are long on summary and law filler and very low on actual analysis is not completely off target. But the reason for that is the insane reaction to the Congressional Hearing about the super producing overly favorable ALJ's. (in the words of the Woody Allen joke, we needed the eggs) This is meatball decision making. There cannot be perfection; there can only be the best you can do. And with over 1.1 million cases waiting and hearing delayed over two years in many places, its time to get er done.Lastly, this mess arose under a Democratic administration. Perhaps we were too reluctant to criticize a Democratic administration for this failure. And, yes, many of the problems were due to inadequate funding. But that is not enough. The SSA was incompetently managed and ODAR's regime was particularly inept. We should have complained more. Shame on us.
The new DWPI standard for decision writers (Senior Attorneys still have no actual performance metric/standard--woof) is based on actual performance. The architects of the DWPI ran the data on all decisions written in FY 14 and 15 to come up with 12 categories of cases/decisions, and then did complex multiple regressions using adjusted available hours for the writers (time on duty actually drafting decisions [no leave, no downtime]) and those categories of cases to determine the average time actually spent in FY 14 and 15 to draft those decisions. Thus, the standards are based on actual performance (assuming they did the math right--no idea if NTEU/AFGE are satisfied with the data they have been given to prove that) and not just some guy's idea of how long it should take. Further, since the category time values for decisions are the AVERAGES, it seems reasonable to expect writers to perform at 70 (and then 75 in year two, and then 80 by year three where it will stay) percent of the average, no?Using a metric that is based off what writers actually did and then pegging satisfactory performance at 80 percent of the average seems plenty fair to me, but I'd love to hear others' ideas of how to devise a metric/standard for decision writing.
929 You wrap it all nice and pretty with a bow on top. The problem is that there is nothing in the exquisitely wrapped package. The data used to gin up DWPI has never been released or validated. Further, when NTEU did try to apply some statistical rigor to DWPI post implementation, it was obvious that there were flaws. Such flaws were found to be overly detrimental to at least one protected class of employee. To date management has failed to rigorously examine the underpinings of DWPI. So please don't make it sound like DWPI has been validated as an accurate or even reasonable measurement of DW productivity. Admittedly, it could be a good jumping off point, but it is half baked in its current incarnation.
3:54--what's the issue with the RCALJ in R1 and R2?
ODAR management comes off like little Trumpettes - threatening people based on flimsy numbers at best. The numbers need to be weighted with an algorithm based on Affirmation or Favorable, pages, priors, type of case... and a quality factor to be determined quarterly by the review of 3 decisions. SSA provides data to the whole country so I am sure they have a few statisticians that could assist in the creation of an algorithm where the decision writer inserts the variables in a drop down menu and it is spot checked by management for accuracy. And if someone is on vacation for a week or sick or in training then downtime should be entered in the monthly calculation - that is just plain common sense. These made up numbers make management look like idiots.
@2:58We're talking about ODAR MANAGEMENT, which is clearly delineated in 2:21's comment.
@11:27AMEN!9:29 is misguided and wrongheaded, consistent with ODAR Management. We are not producing widgets here, and the whole notion you can put writing legally sufficient ALJ decisions on a production quota metric evaluation of performance is down right nutty. Each and every case is vastly different. The bottom line is some cases are simply more demanding and complex, and require more time. The buck has to stop somewhere, and in my decades of experience in the position, it always stopped with the writer. It is rare the ALJ does research, when necessary. This is typically left with the Attorney writer. While the ALJ is the final editor of decisions they issue, it is the decision writer who spends much more time on the case. What truly sickens me is the whole idea non-Attorneys can supervise Attorneys and evaluate their performance. My experience is the non- Attorney supervisors always evaluated performance exclusively on numbers. This is illegal, in my opinion, and should NEVER be tolerated. You cannot place the human brain on a production line. Whether decision writer or ALJ, the employee requires adequate time to read, analyze and synthesize a case. These claimants should be afforded due process. For decades, I witnessed up close and personal ODAR Management repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. The are so obsessed with numbers, decisions would go out lacking something which a little more time spent on the case by the writer or ALJ probably would not have ever happened. So, the claimant continues to wait another 2 years, and the Agency ends up spending more on employee time, paying their salary, holding another hearing on remand when none of it should have ever been necessary. What I do not understand is why these inept, incompetent ODAR Managers, especially in Falls Church who continue to push unreasonable numbers/ quotas, and they, and they alone, are responsible for the massive backlog, are allowed to remain in some of the highest positions in the Agency drawing unearned salaries when their entire management of the disability components of the Agency has been a disaster of unprecedented, massive proportions? Each and everyone of these individuals should be writing decisions right now. Their concept of managing a workforce is based on punishment standing over your head with a stick and constantly pestering employees over numbers. The truth is NONE of these individuals would be able to withstand being treated in such a manner themselves. I cannot express to the transition team the importance of getting rid of these individuals and their failed management. Many were favorites promoted through the ranks, and in my decades of experience, these favorites have never been the best performers, or even close. I sure hope you guys are listening.
@12:54ODAR Management lacks the expertise to appropriately evaluate decision writer performance. Many are non-attorneys who are unqualified to perform such performance evaluations. Many of those who had a brief stint writing decisions, were horrible writers. Further, get rid of algorithms and metrics all together. An experienced attorney supervisor should be doing these evaluations, and that person should speak with some of the ALJ's from whom they have written for feedback about their writing.
Someone said this to me about 30 years ago:"We never have time to do it right, but we always have time to do it over"And so it goes, all these years later.
Can you cite legal authority that states non-attorney supervision of attorneys is illegal? Generally, in the private sector non-attorney CEOs supervise General Counsel's all the time.Congrats Chuck your blog is now nothing more than a gathering place for current and former SSA employees to anonymously air their grievances to the public and bicker with each other.
@2:41AMEN!Always time to do it over.
@4:55 stated, "Can you cite legal authority that states non-attorney supervision of attorneys is illegal? Generally, in the private sector non-attorney CEOs supervise General Counsel's all the time."Illegal, or not, this stinks the way ODAR handles this. The very idea of a high school graduate, or someone with only an Associates or Bachelors degree supervising Attorneys is wrong! I seriously doubt there are few, if any, CEO's with only a high school, or Associates/Backelors degree level of education evaluating the performance of Attorneys and SA's. Good Grief!
@4:55 stated,"Congrats Chuck your blog is now nothing more than a gathering place for current and former SSA employees to anonymously air their grievances to the public and bicker with each other."Wrong! For years, ODAR and SSA Management had an absolute fit in the event any current or former employees exposed their dirty laundry. They were quite masterful covering-up their dirty laundry, as well. The massive backlog in disability cases, which exclusively lies on the backs of these Managers and their refusal to even consider insightful recommendations to immediately reduce the backlog from retired and current employees with vast experience in the hearing offices, is malfeasance, and the situation demands we speak up and expose what the real problems are and those who are responsible. Only 3-4 top management officials voluntarily left with the transition in power. Most reasonably people would think with ODAR Managements total and complete failure, they would have sneaked out with their faces overed in shame. Claimants are now dying because of you, your incompetence and your malfeasance.
@455 agreed on the former agency axe grinding. If it has more than 5 comments not worthy reading!
@5:49Au contraire. There is no grinding going on here, just revealing and exposing the truth.
Is it POTUS or Pee At Us?
Have to step in to respond to the "poorly educated" regarding the comment that "in the private sector non-attorney CEOs supervise General Counsel's [sic] all the time.""Supervision" is an inaccurate way to describe the CEO - GC relationship. If a non-attorney CEO micromanaged the work of a GC - the company would not function successfully. Sure, the GC provides legal advice to help the CEO manage the company. But the GC also advises the Board in representing shareholder interests, and thus has an ethical obligation to advise the board when a CEO acts contrary to the interests of the company. Enron is the classic example of what you are describing. And perhaps ODAR is something like Enron was.
Then it would be real law, with real judges and real lawyers. This is SSA, come on guys you all act like you are defending the Constitution at the SCOTUS every day. This is insurance work. ODAR and the reps can all be supervised by an state qualified day care provider.
@8:17SSA/ODAR is real law with real judges. ALJ's are experienced Attorneys who have gone through grueling testing, panel interview, Agency interviews, and detailed background checks. This is far more than elected sate and county judges are subjected. Face it, the electorate is not particularly well educated or informed, especially about those running for county and local judges. I live in a red state where the states flagship university is located. Voters here have a reputation for voting for anyone on the ballot who has an "R" next to their name. In the last county election, these dimwits voted against a Democrat judge who had a stellar reputation, and voted in an Attorney only a few years out of law school with nominal law practice experience simply because he had an "R" beside his name. Very sad. So, when you denigrate ODAR ALJ's By stating they are not REAL judges, I could not disagree more. The same is true concerning Attorney Advisors and SA's at ODAR. While they are not litigating in a court room, they deal with Administrative Law. Contrary to what some have said on this Board that ODAR decision writer's are not supposed to think, but just write, this simply is not true. When I was an ODAR Attorney and SA, the one thing that got me through years and years of decision writing was that I viewed each case as a challenge, and put a lot of thought into the decisions I wrote, and how I analyzed and synthesized the evidence in the decision, especially with Affirmations, PF's and non-disability cases. By performing my work in this manner, it gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment. Further, claimants have the right to due process and an impartial hearing. While I never thought I was working to appeal to SCOTUS, The Constitution and due process rights of claimants always remained in the back of my mind. When you denigrate ODAR ALJ,'s, AA's and SA's, and relinquish their work performance to ridiculous metrics/quotas, you serve no useful purpose, run the Agency further into the ground, minimize the Professionalism of these employees, and destroy the sense of pride they put into their work.
Can the jail someone for contempt? Can they subpoena records and witness', perform a marriage? ALJ is just an overpaid insurance claim adjudicator, max of $70k a year in the private sector doing WC claims or LTD. I have as much respect for those on both sides, ALJs and Reps, as I do for a common Medicare Supplemental Insurance pusher, Used Car Dealer, or class action "has this drug hurt you" late night tv commercial lawyers. AAs and SAs are sell outs that could not cut it in private practice or in firm environment that went for a lifetime position with decent pay and a title that makes them sound like something when they are talking to the uniformed. Change the title and take Judge out of it and watch the slow down of applicants. The SSA Disability system has become a business, needing more and more lawyers for each side to keep it moving. Just a huge way to move tax money into the lawyers pockets as fees or salary. Nationwide firms doing the business of LTD companies, mass producing claims, using internet lead companies to dupe people into filing. It is not so much a benefit as a business. Total revamp of the program is needed.
That pesky little troll has jumped threads. Please Don't Feed The Troll. In his mind he is the arbiter of all that matters. He is handsome and strong with a beautiful girlfriend. He is smarter than any mere attorney or judge. In reality however he lives in his mother's basement and is Management's rentboy who bashes the legal profession with abandon. Feel sorry for the troll/rentboy but please don't feed him
So a "troll" is someone that doesn't agree with you? Bubble logic at its best.
You know, there is a correlation between the number of people on disability and the growth of disability megafirms. Sure it is also a part of an aging population as well. I have not plotted the application for benefits by age against a growth of the large firms but it could be an interesting exercise.
205:Disagree, no problem. However, the troll doesn't so much disagree as denigrate the process, due process, the legal profession, and the very employees who are really trying to get er done under very difficult circumstances. The troll is not part of the solution, just like most of the non-attorney managers, he is the problem.
Get in trouble or think you can sue someone, you all love us then!
@1:48 & 3:15:BRAVO!
The legal sufficiency/quality of attorneys is never supervised by non-attorneys. SAA 27 is being disingenuous and omitting the very large fact that HOCALJs do the quality section of performance reviews (demonstrates job knowledge) for ODAR attorneys if the attorney is supervised directly by a non-attorney. So attorneys at ODAR may have other aspects of their job supervised by non-attorneys (attendance, etc.), but the quality of their work is only evaluated by another with a law license.
I am beginning to think the "troll" has a point and the safety net is more a business than protection of the people.
@11:53No one said anything about SA-27. Stop assuming what you do not know.As for your assertion, this has NOT been the case in ODAR Hearing Offices nationwide. I am SA-27, and it was never the case with me, either!
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