Last month, the Supreme Court in Lucia v. SEC (2018) held that Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) are "Officers of the United States" subject to the Appointments Clause. In a subsequent effort to mitigate concerns over the selection of ALJs and reduce the likelihood of litigation based on Appointments Clause challenges, the President signed Executive Order 13843, excepting ALJs from competitive service by directing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to amend Civil Service Rule VI. As a result, agency heads now have greater discretion and authority to appoint and hire ALJs.
To administer and preside over federal agency hearings, the executive branch utilizes thousands of administrative law judges (ALJs), the largest number of which are employed by Social Security Administration. An ALJ is authorized to regulate the course of the hearing, administer oaths, examine witnesses, issue subpoenas, rule on evidence, and make findings of fact and conclusions of law.
After a hearing before the Social Security Administration, the administrative law judge (ALJ) shall issue a written decision which gives the findings of fact and reasons for the decision. Although the ALJ will usually render a final decision, appealable only to the Appeals Council, the ALJ may also send the case directly to the Appeals Council with a recommended decision based on a preponderance of the evidence when appropriate. (The Appeals Council may also review any ALJ decision or dismissal within 60 days of the decision on its own motion). Conditions for a recommended decision may be appropriate where the case involves a novel issue of policy or procedure, or where the ALJ is attempting to comply with a remand order which is unusually vague. The ALJ must be able to articulate why a recommended decision is appropriate, and should not issue a recommended decision simply based on personal disagreement with agency policies, or merely to avoid issuing a decision on a particular case.
In this day and age, the Internet has become a ubiquitous and practical source of information for any investigator or finder of fact. When adjudicating a claim, however, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may not rely upon information obtained from the Internet or social media sites, whether from a computer or smartphone (Hallex I-2-5-69). Although the Internet has proven useful as a general source, any researcher should exercise caution when evaluating the credibility and veracity of information obtained from the Internet.
"How long will it take before I get my decision from the Judge?" is a question very frequently asked after a hearing. Unfortunately, there is no specific time frame in which an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is required to issue a formal written decision. The length of time depends on a range of variables, including any backlog of claims that any individual hearing office, also known as Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), must deal with.
It has been estimated that at least 70 percent of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income claims are denied by the Social Security Administration. Claims may be denied when disabled workers and other folks in Minnesota and throughout the U.S. fail to provide the SSA with the information that is needed to process a claim. Claims may also be denied when the SSA makes mistakes while processing claims or when the SSA makes the determination that some applicants are simply not entitled to obtain disability benefits.
Do you think you could support two children and yourself by making only $9 per hour at a part-time job in Minneapolis? Even with inexpensive housing and cutting other costs like owning a car and going out to eat, making only $9 an hour at a part-time job may make it extremely challenging for families to make ends meet each month.
Minnesota workers who become disabled and can longer do their jobs may be entitled to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Unfortunately, obtaining benefits can be just as challenging as living with a disability or a life-threatening illness.
In our last blog post, we discussed the uninformed criticism that Social Security Disability (SSD) administrative law judges have faced in the past year. In this post, we will look at the impact that various SSD decision-makers have on the program.
In the past few years, the media has been quick to question the value of the Social Security Disability (SSD) program. They have called attention to administrative law judges who award SSD in "too many cases;" have said that there has been an improper rise in SSD claims during the recession; and have criticized the SSD eligibility standards for illnesses and disorders recently defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA).