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Ways and Means Members Request Review of Social Security Disability Hearing Process

June 17, 2011

Washington, DC – Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Members, led by Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Ranking Member Xavier Becerra (D-CA), sent a letter to Social Security Administration (SSA) Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll inquiring into recent press reports which have raised concerns about decisions made by a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ).

In the letter the Members stated: “We are very concerned about the particulars of this story as well as any potentially similar occurrences that may be taking place elsewhere in the Nation.  Over the years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has made great strides in tackling the hearings backlog, but it is essential that this progress adhere to the Agency’s policies and procedures while also demonstrating good stewardship of precious taxpayer dollars.” 

The Members asked that SSA:

  1. Revew ALJ workloads, adherence to Agency policies and procedures, and related monitoring.
  2. Provide information on those ALJs who differ very significantly from their peers in their productivity or decisional outcomes.
  3. Assess what factors may account for any variances in these rates, as well as how the ALJs obtained the cases they worked and whether they held hearings. 
  4. Describe and assess the use and effectiveness of management controls regarding ALJ adherence to SSA policies and procedures and any constraints, including statutory limitations, which make it difficult to ensure ALJs’ adherence to those policies and procedures. 
  5. Describe and assess the effectiveness of SSA’s quality review system for ALJ decisions, including reviews by the Appeals Council and the Office of Quality Performance.  

The full letter can be read here.