Social Security Judges File Lawsuit Claiming Poor Work Conditions


April, 18 2013 -- Social Security Administrative Law Judges and their union filed a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration on Thursday in federal Court in Chicago, alleging that the agency's productivity goals in fact constitute an illegal quota that pushes judges' workloads beyond the capacity of what they can realistically handle.
The lawsuit alleges that the agency requires administrative law judges to decide between 500 and 700 cases per year, which averages out to over two decisions per workday. The judges claim that the goals are too high, and force judges to make decisions too quickly. The lawsuit essentially puts in question the integrity of the Social Security disability hearing process. The fact that the people in charge of the process are raising the issue makes it all the more serious.
The lawsuit alleges that judges are supposed to keep meet their quotas, regardless of how complicated their cases. Many case files are 500 or more pages. Judges can be disciplined for failing to meet their quota, even to the extent of facing removal proceedings.
The lawsuit describes a "system in crisis," but according to a spokesman from the Social Security Administration, the lawsuit is really nothing more than the complaints of judges who do not want to be accountable for getting their work done. According to the agency, it is really only a very small number of judges making the complaint, despite the fact that the judges' union represents 1,400 administration law judges. Those judges are hired by the agency, but act independently in deciding cases.
The disability appeals hearing for Social Security is critical for those who've been denied in earlier rounds of the application process. It is important that those coming in for hearings have the opportunity to present their evidence and that judges have the opportunity to make the best decision possible. Having an advocate throughout this process can make a big difference, but the fact that some judges point to a lack of integrity in the process is certainly concerning.

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