In-Person Hearings: We are committed to supporting agency mission and advocating for the ability to ensure the due process rights of claimants. Because of this, while the board is in D.C. this week, we will educate members of congress and their staff on the importance of a claimant being able to elect an in-person hearing.
Centralized Scheduling: In relation to the centralized scheduling initiative being implemented throughout the country, we are concerned that it may impair our ability to hold our hearings in a timely fashion. As we all know, scheduling is complicated and critical, with many variables. Local hearing offices have created systems that meet their unique needs. The impact to the ALJs conditions of employment could be significant and of course, we will carefully monitor. For these reasons, we will provide input on centralized scheduling this week. We welcome the opportunity to work with leadership to ensure there are no negative impacts to mission. Other issues to be addressed include the importance of judicial independence as it relates to ALJs being competitive versus excepted service.
Proposal for AAJs to Hear Disability Hearings: Once again, the agency has initiated efforts to allow the AC Council hear disability cases. You can review at the reginfo.gov website. Administrative Appeals Judges do not have the same independence and protection that ALJs have. This is a serious matter on which we will provide information and input while we are in D.C.
The CBA negotiating team, which includes Danette Mincey, Janice Holmes, George Evans, and me, met for two weeks to prepare for contract negotiations. Feel free to provide your input offline to any of us.
New DR and Deputy NGC
I am pleased to report that Jay Cohen, Queens HO, is a newly appointed designated representative, and Kenneth Ayers, Newark HO, is our deputy national grievance chair. Both Jay and Ken have extensive experience in federal sector labor law. I am temporarily serving as the acting national grievance chair. It’s been a pleasure working with them as well as Nathan Brown and Vadim Mozyrsky, who are also designated representatives.
Survey Results and Arbitrator Awards
Thanks to Judge Mincey for an excellent job on the survey! The results will be posted on our website soon. We will also have the recent arbitrator awards posted. A few days ago, an arbitrator determined that scheduling 47 hearings a month was reasonable for one ALJ until September of this year. Thanks to those who worked on that arbitration. We will continue to seek a global resolution of the ongoing telework/scheduling issue. It is our hope that in good faith, the union and agency can reach an agreement that is equitable, sustainable, and ensures the due process rights of all claimants.
It’s been a pleasure getting to know many of you over the last month. There truly are no harder working, committed public servants in the federal sector than SSA ALJs. Thanks for all you do.