OPM pledges to help speed hiring of Social Security judges

New list of eligible hires would help SSA address record disability appeals backlog.

A top government official has pledged that by late October, her agency will have developed a list of qualified applicants from which the Social Security Administration can hire judges to help reduce a record backlog of disability appeals.

Office of Personnel Management Director Linda Springer told members of a House Ways and Means subcommittee that her agency was working aggressively to have a new slate of potential administrative law judges ready by the fall.

Drawing alternately on emotional and professional arguments, lawmakers challenged Springer and Michael Astrue, recently confirmed as commissioner of SSA, to make good on claims that they could cut into the number of disability benefit applicants awaiting adjudication.

SSA has experienced a shortage of the administrative law judges, or ALJs, who adjudicate appeals of disability benefit decisions, since a lawsuit froze OPM's hiring process for the position in 1999. Since then, OPM has refreshed its pool of eligible candidates by confirming that those listed were still interested in taking the job, but has added few new candidates.

Faced with sharp questions from Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., Springer acknowledged that some candidates had been added to the list as far back as 1993. She said only 10 to 15 percent had joined in this decade.

Springer said she recently has pushed to move as quickly as possible in recruiting new candidates based on an application developed after the legal challenges were resolved in 2003, and that candidates will be added to the list in late October when testing and interviewing is complete.

"Everyone at OPM would have wanted to see a faster process," Springer said. She suggested that agencies' successful hiring of 560 ALJs from the roster over the past several years had probably convinced OPM officials that they could take the time to be "more deliberate" in developing the revised application.

Pomeroy said similar assurances that a new list was imminent have been made in the past, quoting descriptions of delays and estimates that the process was about a year from completion in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Springer agreed to update subcommittee staff on a monthly basis from now until the new candidate list is complete.

After challenging Springer, lawmakers did not spare Astrue, asking him why the administration has not moved more aggressively to hire from the old list or find other ways of resolving cases.

Astrue testified that Social Security has worked hard to resolve those cases in which applicants had waited 1,000 days or more for a hearing, and has cut that number from 65,525 last October to 17,966 as of last week. But he said that despite making a record number of decisions last year, the agency lost ground and has more than 730,000 cases pending.

He said that over the past several years, funding has been a greater constraint than the ALJ candidate roster. He said appropriations repeatedly have fallen short of the president's budget request, and that he has been meeting with appropriators to make the case for full funding in the next budget cycle.

He said the productivity of some of the ALJs, who essentially receive lifetime appointments, also has been a concern, and that the agency is working to modernize its systems and make better use of technology.

The agency hopes to hire 150 additional ALJs in the coming budget year. Pomeroy questioned whether that would be sufficient to handle the record backlog, urging the commissioner to "think more aggressively than that." But Astrue said 150 new judges would be a challenge to train in one year, and that funds for more hiring could be requested later.

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, attacked Astrue for the agency's failure to fix the problem, and invited him to Cleveland to explain the problems to her constituents.

Describing the heartbreak he experiences facing impoverished, disabled constituents, some of whom wait three or four years for a decision on their case, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., noted that about two-thirds of those appeals ultimately would be vindicated. "I don't know how you live with yourselves," he said to the witnesses.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.