Monday, October 28, 2013

socialNsecurity Appendix A


Since early 1983, when U.S. District Court Judge Green ordered SSA to cease Bellmon Review of targeted ALJ allowances pending argumentation in Association of ALJs, Inc. v. Heckler, et al., the disability determination process has provided an eventful political arena. Of course, the Reagan Administration had suggested nearly two years earlier such fundamental alterations in the process as repealing the applicability of the APA to Social Security hearings, abolishing the Appeals Council, and instituting an informal hearing on the State level, 1 and Robert
Trachtenberg had imposed his production initiatives beginning in 1975.
Nevertheless, the last 18 months have seen public attention drawn to
the process as never before.
On June 6, 1983, Margaret Heckler, Secretary of HHS, held a press conference to meet growing Congressional and public concerns over the numbers and conditions of people being removed from the disability rolls. Changes were being implemented, the Secretary announced, to guarantee that no worthy beneficiaries would be taken from the rolls in the future, the implication being that this had been done in the past. The internal modifications in the review process were apparently not sufficient because ten months later on April 13, 1984, the Secretary
announced a moratorium on the cessation case reviews in which benefits
had ceased until new disability legislation was enacted and implemented
nationally. This announcement brought with it a drastic decline in ALJs'
caseloads, thus de-emphasizing for the first time in ten years the productivity issue.
Source: (Publication Information: Book Title: Judges, Bureaucrats, and the Question of Independence: A Study of the Social Security Administration Hearing Process. Contributors: Donna Price Cofer - author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of Publication: Westport, CT. Publication Year: 1985. Page Number: 181.)
  1. There were many incidents of SSA policy and management decisions during the 1980s to attempt to compel individual judges to reduce their allowance rate, to discipline or threaten to discipline ALJs for failure to meet production quotas, to control the content of ALJ decisions, to discourage the ALJs from using medical and vocational experts at their hearings, and to ignore SSA’s own regulations regarding the sequential evaluation process to deny mental impairment disability claims, among other things. For example, the SSA’s Bellmon Review Program in the early 1980s was a process by which SSA had the Appeals Council do "own motion" review of 25% to 100% of only the favorable decisions issued only by ALJs who the SSA had targeted as having high allowance rates of 70% or more. In 1983, the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs held hearings on the ALJs’ role in the Title II disability insurance program and issued a report that stated its findings of SSA’s improprieties, including limits of ALJs’ decisional independence, non-acquiescence, and increasing case quotas:
The principal findings of the Subcommittee is that the SSA is pressuring its ALJs to reduce the rate at which they allow disabled persons to participate in the Social Security Disability Program….[The Subcommittee found that the SSA was limiting the decisional independence of ALJs through its Rulings, its non-acquiescence to federal court decisions, and its increasing of case quotas that reduced the time an ALJ could spend on each case to develop additional evidence that may support an allowance decision, among other things.] The APA mandates that the ALJ be an independent, impartial adjudicator in the administrative process and in so doing separates the adjudicative and prosecutorial functions of an agency. The ALJ is the only impartial, independent adjudicator available to the claimant in the administrative process, and the only person who stand between the claimant and the whim of agency bias and policy. If the ALJ is subordinated to the role of a mere employee, an instrument and mouthpiece for the SSA, then we will have returned to the days when the agency was both prosecutor and judge.
Sen. Rep. No. 98-111 (September 16, 1983). The pitched battle that the SSA ALJs had to wage against SSA during the 1980s to preserve the independent decisionmaking and due process under the APA for Social Security claimants was such that, in 1986, the President of the American Bar Association presented the SSA ALJs with an award to recognize their efforts to preserve the hearing process. The award states "[t]hat the American Bar Association hereby commends the Social Security Administrative Law Judge Corps for its outstanding efforts during the period from 1982-1984 to protect the integrity of administrative adjudication within their agency, to preserve the public confidence in the fairness of governmental institutions and uphold the rule of law."

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