Aug 10, 2018

New ALJ Hiring?

     It's been less than a month since the President ordered that Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) would henceforth be hired as "excepted service" employees. Now we hear rumors that the Social Security Administration hopes to begin hiring new ALJs in the near future. If this is true, drawing up a plan to evaluate ALJ candidates and getting everyone at the agency on board so quickly is surprising. 
     There are essentially no limits on how "excepted service" hiring is done. The agency can get away with almost anything without breaking any law. 
     Haste combined with a lack of legal limits makes me worry.
     I hope everyone involved realizes that if Democrats get control of the House of Representatives after the November election, as now appears likely, the House Social Security Subcommittee will be holding a hearing on ALJ hiring early next year where Social Security officials will have to explain what process they have used or will be using. Here's some things that probably wouldn't go over too well if that hearing happens:
  • A secretive process with no announced selection criteria
  • A lack of public notice of job openings
  • Political influence on the hiring process, such as candidates being hired because of recommendations from the White House or members of Congress
  • ALJ jobs used to give a soft landing to Congressional staffers who lose their jobs if Democrats win control of the House of Representatives
  • Ideological bias in the hiring process
  • Job candidates being vetted by outside groups who are not otherwise involved with Social Security ALJs, such as the Federalist Society
  • Personal favoritism in the hiring process
  • A lack of diversity among those hired
  • Hiring only from within the agency
  • Lots of hiring of agency employees nearing retirement who only want to work as ALJs for a short time in order to increase their retirement benefits
  • Using ALJ jobs to clear deadwood out of Social Security's Office of General Counsel or other parts of Social Security


Anonymous said...

Most OHO managers now are young people in their 30s, who got hired right out of law school and have never set foot in a real courtroom. They'll probably be the first hires.

Eventually you'll see Federalist Society alum in their late 20s getting the job, bloggers and think thank people rather than litigators, as ALJ becomes an audition process for highly ideological activist Federal Court judges, weaponizing the judiciary to pass all sorts of crazy right wing social engineering.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:59 You are spot on in charachterizing the current and much inexperienced pool of potential ALJ's from within.

That said, we're hiring judges to hear what cases? At current production levels and falling cases receipted in,our office will be overstaffed with both ALJ's and support staff by January.

This won't stop the HOCALJ from attempting to promote their favorites of course but the rumored number of 100 is a mere 2 per state.

Anonymous said...

While it's fun to assume the worst, it's likely that their ability to get a plan up and running so quickly is because SSA is simply adopting the old practices of OPM and adding some of the changes that they've desired for years that were never implemented. I highly doubt the agency is re-inventing the wheel here.

Anonymous said...

What kind of courtroom experience does it take to hold a non adversarial insurance decision hearing? This is not really hard law, remember every ALJ (Almost Like a Judge) decision upholds what a DDS employee did cheaper and faster.

Anonymous said...

I see problems dismantling a process or program that has been in place a long time.