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Identity of Administrative Law Judge to be Kept Secret until Social Security Hearing Date

Published on December 15th, 2011

In December, 2011, the Social Security Administration began a new policy concerning the identity of the Judge assigned to a Claimant’s case. Neither the social security attorney nor the disabled claimant will learn of the Judge’s name until the day of the hearing. This is a major and unfortunate SSI policy change.

Different social security law judges have different requirements concerning evidence and procedure. Different judges are known to hold hearings that are short. Others hold hearings that are lengthy. There are judges who do all the questioning and then there are some who prefer the Social Security attorney to handle that aspect of the hearing. Some require a great deal of detail on issues not important to other judges. For example, certain judges require a printout of prescription drug records while most are not interested in clogging up the Record with extra documents they do not deem relevant. Some SSI judges insist on seeing “raw data” from psychological testing that psychologists are very reluctant to release without a subpoena. And so on.

This new social security law policy will undoubtedly lead to the inability of some Judges to make a decision after the hearing without obtaining additional records and information. This will clearly cause more Judges to hold supplemental hearings and to delay issuing their social security disability decisions. The end result will be a growing backlog of SSI cases and longer periods of time before the hearing can be scheduled.

In a democracy, the parties have a right to know the name of the Judge who will be determining the outcome of their social security disability claims. I cannot think of other courts where the Judges are cloaked in secrecy before the hearing or trial. The National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives (NOSSCR)  has written to the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration in protest of this new policy. If you would like to express your concern, please write to: Michael Astrue, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, 6401 Security Blvd. Baltimore, MD 21235

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