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Full text of "Performance of the Social Security Administration's Office of Hearings and Appeals in Mobile, AL, and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, June 5, 1996"

^ PERFORMANCE OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN- 
ISTOATION'S OFFICE OF HEARINGS AND AP- 
PEALS IN MOBILE, AL, AND RELATED ISSUES 

Y 4, J 89/1:104/71 

LING 

Perfornance of the Social Security... the 

ISUbCUMMlTTEE ON 
COMMERCIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW 

OF THE 

COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIAEY 
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 

ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS 

SECOND SESSION 



JUNE 5, 1996 



Serial No. 71 






^^^"^'vrnl^i^^^^ 




Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary 



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 
WASHINGTON : 1996 



For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office 
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402 
ISBN 0-16-053404-6 



1^ 

^ PERFORMANCE OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN- 
ISTTUTION'S OFFICE OF HEARINGS AND AP- 
PEALS IN MOBILE, AL, AND RELATED ISSUES 

^4. J 89/1; 104/71 

LING 

Perfornance of the Social Security... the 

SUBCOMMITTEE ON 
COMMERCIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW 

OF THE 

COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIAKY 
HOUSE OP REPRESENTATIVES 

ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS 
SECOND SESSION 



JUNE 5, 1996 



Serial No. 71 



/ . SEP 



^^mlf^' 




^ 3 ISSS 






Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary 



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 
WASHINGTON : 1996 



For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office 
Superintendent of Documents. Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402 
ISBN 0-16-053404-6 



COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY 
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman 



CARLOS J. MOORHEAD, California 
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR., 

Wisconsin 
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida 
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania 
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina 
LAMAR SMITH, Texas 
STEVEN SCHIFF, New Mexico 
ELTON GALLEGLY, California 
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida 
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina 
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia 
STEPHEN E. BUYER, Indiana 
MARTIN R. HOKE, Ohio 
SONNY BONO, California 
FRED HEINEMAN, North Carolina 
ED BRYANT, Tennessee 
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio 
MICHAEL PATRICK FLANAGAN, Ilhnois 
BOB BARR, Georgia 



JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan 
PATRICIA SCHROEDER, Colorado 
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts 
CHARLES E. SCHUMER, New York 
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California 
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia 
JOHN BRYANT, Texas 
JACK REED, Rhode Island 
JERROLD NADLER, New York 
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia 
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina 
XAVIER BECERRA. California 
ZOE LOFGREN, California 
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas 
MAXINE WATERS, California 



Alan F. Coffey, Jr., General Counsel/ Staff Director 
JUUAN Epstein, Minority StafT Director 



SuBCOMMirrEE ON Commercial and Administrative Law 

GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania, Chairman 
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois JACK REED, Rhode Island 

BOB INGLIS, South Carolina JERROLD NADLER, New York 

STEVE CHABOT, Ohio ROBERT C. SCOTT. Vii^nia 

MICHAEL PATRICK FLANAGAN, Illinois ZOE LOFGREN, California 

BOB BARR, GeoiTgia 



Raymond V. Smietanka, Chief Counsel 
Charles E. Kern II, Counsel 
Roger T. Fleming, Counsel 

AgnIESZKA FRYSZMAN, Minority Counsel 



(II) 



CONTENTS 



HEARING DATE 



Page 
June 5, 1996 1 

OPENING STATEMENT 

Gekas, Hon. George W., a Representative in Congress from the State of 
Pennsylvania, and chairman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Adminis- 
trative Law 1 

WITNESSES 

Boyer, Hon. Charles, Chief Administrative Law Judge, Social Security Admin- 
istration 67 

Callahan, Hon. Sonny, a Representative in Congress from the State of Ala- 
bama, accompanied by John Burge, disability applicant. Mobile, AL 3 

Cleveland, Hon. Melford, president. Association of Administrative Law 
Judges, Inc 106 

De Bellis, Hon. Frank, Administrative Law Judge, Social Security Adminis- 
tration, Mobile, AL 84 

Habermann, Hon. Robert S., Administrative Law Judge, Social Security Ad- 
ministration, Mobile, AL 90 

Watkins, Hon. Henry G., Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge, Social 

Security Administration, Atlanta, GA 76 

LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING 

Bachus, Hon. Spencer, a Representative in Congress from the State of Ala- 
bama: Prepared statement 8 

Boyer, Hon. Charles, Chief Administrative Law Judge, Social Security Admin- 
istration: Prepared statement 70 

Burge, John, disability applicant. Mobile, AL: Prepared statement 64 

Callahan, Hon. Sonny, a Representative in Congress from the State of Ala- 
bama: Prepared statement 16 

Cleveland, Hon. Melford, president. Association of Administrative Law 
Judges, Inc.: Prepared statement 110 

De Bellis, Hon. Frank, Administrative Law Judge, Social Security Adminis- 
tration, Mobile, AL: Prepared statement 88 

Gilchrest, Hon. Wayne T., a Representative in Congress from the State of 
Maryland: Prepared statement 8 

Gingrich, Hon. Newt, a Representative in Congress from the State of Georgia: 
Prepared statement 4 

Habermann, Hon. Robert S., Administrative Law Judge, Social Security Ad- 
ministration, Mobile, AL: Prepared statement 92 

Watkins, Hon. Henry G., Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge, Social 
Security Administration, Atlanta, GA: Prepared statement 79 

APPENDDC 

Statement of Judge William A. Pope II, president. Administrative Law Judges 
Conference 127 

(III) 



PERFORMANCE OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY 
ADMINISTRATION'S OFFICE OF HEARINGS 
AND APPEALS IN MOBILE, AL, AND RELAT- 
ED ISSUES 



WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, 1996 

House of Representatives, 
Subcommittee on Commercial and 

Administrative Law, 
Committee on the Judiciary, 

Washington, DC. 
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in room 
2237, Raybum House Office Building, Hon. George W. Gekas 
(chairman of the subcommittee) presiding. 

Present: Representatives George W. Gekas, Steve Chabot, and 
Jack Reed. 

Also present: Raymond V. Smietanka, chief counsel; Charles E. 
Kern II, counsel; Rebecca Ward, secretary; and Agnieszka 
Fryszman, minority counsel. 

OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN GEKAS 

Mr. Gekas. The hour of 10 o'clock having arrived, the hearing 
scheduled for the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative 
Law of the Judiciary Committee will come to order. 

Because of custom and because of the rules, we will recess until 
the arrival of another member of the subcommittee so that we may 
have a working quorum. And so, we now recess. 

[Recess.] 

Mr. Gekas. The time of the recess having expired, the hearing 
conducted by the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative 
Law Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary will now 
come to order. 

We note the presence of the ranking minority member of the sub- 
committee, Mr, Reed, of Rhode Island. His presence now constitut- 
ing a quorum, we will proceed with the opening statements, if 
there are any, and then to the oral testimony. 

This hearing has come at the request of the gentleman from Ala- 
bama, Representative Sonny Callahan to bring certain facts and 
certain trends in his district to the attention of our subcommittee. 
Fortunately, the request was one to which I could prove a quick an- 
swer. I said that we would hold a hearing and we are now accom- 
modating him. First of all, this subcommittee has jurisdiction, long- 
existing, over the Administrative Procedure Act and the conduct of 
administrative law judges. Their activity is governed substantially 

(1) 



by the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act; ergo, we 
have a sohd jurisdictional basis for the testimony that we're about 
to hear. 

No. 2 — fortuitouslv, and jibing with the request of the gentleman 
from Alabama — is tne fact that our subcommittee has already ap- 
proved a bill, which is awaiting markup by the full committee, that 
goes to the heart of the organization of and the conduct of the ad- 
ministrative law judges of the Federal Government. So, the testi- 
mony that we're going to hear today relates to both arenas. 

In the larger arena of Social Security Administration operations, 
other committees probably have primary jurisdiction. We hope that 
we can work with the gentleman from Kentucky, Mr. Running, 
whose Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security has been 
examining some of the operations of the Social Security Adminis- 
tration, so that his work, combined with ours on the organization 
of the administrative law judges, will be of interest and value to 
Members of Confess. We will be hearing today about the oper- 
ations and organization of the Social Security Administration, the 
actions of the administrative law judges in Mobile that the gen- 
tleman from Alabama will bring forth, and also the Social Security 
Administration's response to the kinds of complaints that will be 
expressed here today. So, I feel very comfortable — and anxious, 
really — to proceed with the hearing for the purposes of jibing to- 
gether all of these various interests. 

There's no question that the subject that will be described here 
today by the gentleman from Alabama is national in its scope; that 
is, there are many other Members of Congress who from time to 
time are critical of — some gently, some more vociferously, but, nev- 
ertheless, critical of— the handling of disability claims and other 
problems facing the Social Security Administration. So, we know 
that he will speak, when he does, not just from a Mobile, AL, per- 
spective, although that's his district, but also, that he'll be touching 
upon a theme that is national in scope. 

So, with that, I will yield to the gentleman from Rhode Island. 

Mr. Reed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

I want to welcome Mr. Callahan to the subcommittee, and I com- 
mend him for bringing this very important issue to our attention. 
I was appalled to learn of the backlogs in the Mobile, AL, office, 
where claims wait an average of about 517 days to get the disabil- 
ity claims through the process, much longer than the national aver- 
age. I was particularly dismayed to read the many letters that Mr. 
Callahan forwarded to us from his constituents, some of whom 
waited 2 or 3 years, often without any income, before getting their 
payments, all the while facing spiraling medical costs, foreclosure 
on homes or cars, utility shutoffs, and other crises; and I think this 
is a great tribute to the gentleman from Alabama that he would 
be so tenacious in fighting for his constituents and so insistent that 
this backlog be addressed. 

I thank the gentleman for his efforts on behalf of his constituents 
and also for allowing us the chance to look at this issue in some 
detail, and I'm very much interested in hearing from you, Mr. Cal- 
lahan, and also from your constituents and from everyone else, 
and, again, I commend you for what you've done for your people. 
Thank you. 



Mr. Gekas. With that, we recognize the gentleman from Ala- 
bama, Mr. Callahan. We will adhere, if we can, to the 5-minute 
rule, so that we can get you back on the floor as soon as possible. 

STATEMENT OF HON. SONNY CALLAHAN, A REPRESENTATIVE 
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ALABAMA, ACCOM- 
PANIED BY JOHN BURGE, DISABILITY APPLICANT, MOBILE, 
AL 

Mr. Callahan. Well, I appreciate it, Mr. Chairman, very much. 
I'm going to have to ask for your patience with respect to the 5- 
minute rule; we've tried to condense our statement and have con- 
densed it a great deal. 

First, let me thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the ranking member 
of your subcommittee, for having this hearing and for granting me 
this opportunity to convey to you and to the Members of Congress 
problems we are experiencing in the First Congressional District of 
Alabama. We have some charts and some testimony, and with your 
indulgence I'm going to go through it as quickly as I possibly can. 
But, I think its important, since we have chronologically listed 
some problems we have and some questions we want you to raise. 
Our mission here is to assist you, Mr. Chairman. We're not trying 
to interfere in the jurisdiction of your committee; we applaud what 
you're doing; we applaud what your subcommittee is doing with re- 
spect for the need to reform tne administrative law judge proce- 
dures, not only with Social Security, but in the other areas as well. 

But, nevertheless, our problems in Mobile are so severe, our peo- 
ple are suffering so badly, that we thought by bringing this testi- 
mony to you it could encourage you and actually enhance your abil- 
ity to foresee problems, or to see problems, or to witness problems 
that we are experiencing. And as a result of that, you'll be able to 
better perform your duty in drafting legislation that, hopefully, will 
create an ability of the administrative law judge procedures to be 
more effective than we currently think they are, at least in the 
First Congressional District of Alabama. 

Other Members do have problems, as Mr. Reed has said. As a 
matter of fact, I need to submit for the record a statement from Mr. 
Gingrich, the Speaker of the House, who is experiencing some prob- 
lems in Georgia; Mr. Spencer Bachus, from Birmingham, AL, and 
Wayne Gilchrest, from Kennedyville, MD, all who have submitted 
testimony, and I'd ask that their statements be made a part of the 
record. 

Mr. Gekas. Without objection, those statements will be accepted 
for the record. 

[The prepared statement of Mr. Gingrich follows:] 



Prepared Statement of Hon. Newt Gingrich, a Representative in Congress 
From the State of Georgia 

Mr. Chairman, I wanted to submit testimony today to the 
Subcommittee because I believe that this Congress needs to address 
the needs of people with disabilities and take an active role in 
making their lives better. 

I applaud the Subcommittee Chairman, George Gekas, for his 
efforts toward this goal, and I want to compliment my colleague and 
friend, Sonny Callahan, for bringing this matter to your attention. 

I have formed two task forces on disability, both locally and 
nationally, because in the real world, life is often different than 
in the government bureaucracy. You can get sophisticated analysis 
from bureaucrats that has nothing to do with what happens to real 
people and to real families affected by a disability. 
Additionally, when I was a freshman in Congress, some folks down 
in Fayette County, Georgia, got me to live for 36 hours as someone 
with a disability. These task forces and that experience have 
shown me how a disability dominates your everyday life. The least 
that we as members of Congress can do is to ensure that those who 
are truly disabled receive the assistance for which they are 
entitled in both a timely and effective manner. 

When I was told by my constituents of horror stories while 
trying to file for disability claims -- people dying before they 
could receive their assistance -- I was appalled. Right now in my 
district, I am working to help over 60 people with their disability 
claims. For some, the process has been emotionally and financially 
devastating. 

Obviously, the nature of some of these cases requires that the 
entire process work efficiently in order to help the most severely 
disabled individuals . When someone is diagnosed as having a 
terminal illness, every second counts. That is why one case sticks 
in my mind as particularly disturbing. A constituent of mine, who 
was diagnosed as having a terminal illness, was denied assistance 
repeatedly. He was a terminal patient . Finally, almost a year 
later, it was ruled that he was eligible for assistance, but by the 
time that the dec-ision was made, this individual had died. The 
decision was of no help and no comfort to his wife and son. 

Another example was of a lady in my district who became unable 
to work and applied for assistance in July 1993. She was denied 
assistance again and again and filed for a hearing at the Chamblee 
Hearing Office in August of 1994. In January of 1996 her case was 
transferred to the Macon Hearing Office to be expedited and she has 



just received a favorable decision two years and ten months after 
she began the process. One person from my district filed for a 
hearing in August of 1993 and waited two and one-half years before 
receiving his decision in January 1996. 

In the Atlanta Hearing Office, my constituents work through 
either the Chamblee or the Atlanta Hearing Offices. In the Atlanta 
Hearing Office in 1995, there was an average of less than 34 cases 
disposed of per month compared to almost 73 in another city in the 
Southeast Region. And in the Chamblee Hearing Office in 1995, it 
took an average 452 days to determine whether or not someone was 
eligible for assistance, while in another city in the Southeast 
Region it took an average of 230 days. That rate is nearly double 
the number of days to determine eligibility. Those statistics 
should be unacceptable and would be anywhere other than in a 
government bureaucracy. 

The Social Security Administration has now ordered a push to 
speed up the claims process, but I have not seen any change in 
terms of quicker decisions. In fact, it seems only to have shifted 
the delay to another point in the process . . 

I am including two charts which show the magnitude of the 
problems associated with disability claims. While the numbers 
speak for themselves, there is no way to describe to you the costs 
to individuals and families who have been touched by an already 
tragic situation. 



FY95 Average Dispositions Per AU Per Month 




Atlanta HO 



Chamblee HO Charleston HO 



Figure 1- Atlanta and Chamblee Hearing Offices compared to the Charleston Hearing Office 
which has the highest average of dispositions per AU per month in Region IV. 



FY95 Average Processing Time (in days) 




Atlanta HO 



Chamblee HO Charlotte HO 



Figure 2 - Atlanta and Chamblee Hearing Offices average processing time compared 
to the Charlotte Hearing Office which has the lowest average processing time in 
Region IV. 



[The prepared statement of Mr. Bachus follows:] 

Prepared Statement of Hon. Spencer Bachus, a Representative in Congress 
From the State of Alabama 

First, I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the efForts of my colleague, 
Congressman Sonny Callahan in working with the Social Security Administration 
to try to rectify the current problems involving delays Alabamians are experiencing 
both in having cases heard and in getting decisions rendered quickly. There have 
been tremendous delays and backlogs in processing disability cases not only in Mo- 
bile, but in Birmingham as well. 

I was first made aware of this problem in 1993 when my caseworkers told me of 
the difficulties some constituents were having getting disability cases heard and de- 
cisions rendered. At that time, I wrote to the Secretary of Health and Human Serv- 
ices, Donna Shalala, and asked that she allow an increase in the number of staff 
members in the Birmingham office until the delays were alleviated. An additional 
5 positions were granted on a temporary basis. 

The Birmingham Office used the new authority to hire 5 new Administrative Law 
Judges (ALJ's) in an attempt to reduce the backlog. I have worked closely with the 
Birmingham office and they have been very helpful in getting status reports to my 
office and are sincerely concerned about resolving the delays. Unfortunately, even 
with the additional staff, there has still been a significant increase in the number 
of days a case is pending and in the total amount of time taken to process each case. 
It is simply not acceptable for disabled citizens to have to wait, in marw cases, more 
than a year to just get their case heard and then up to another year for a decision. 
This reflects more than a mere backlog. It reflects a more fundamental problem 
with the system, which is indeed broken and in need of fixing. 

This hearing is an attempt to identify the reasons for the delays and then dra- 
matically reduce them. More importantly, most of these claimants are truly needy 
and are entitled to a prompt and equitable resolution of their p)etition. I am pleased 
with the opportunity this forum provides to assist deserving citizens, and I would 
like to thank Chairman Gekas for holding this important hearing and allowing me 
to submit my concerns and observations. 

[The prepared statement of Mr. Gilchrest follows:] 

Prepared Statement of Hon. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Representative in 
Congress From the State of Maryland 

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to bring to the committee's attention 
the problem of unreasonable backlogs for persons in my district applying for Social 
Security Disability Insurance. 

Mr. Chairman, I have three full time district offices where everyday Americans 
come in to ask for help with the Social Security Administration. These stories would 
break your heart. Of^n, we are talking about people who have been independent 
all their lives, who have been trying to work with the Social Security Administration 
on their own, and come to their Congressman as a last resort. There are stories of 
husbands and wives, elderly and middle-aged, all facing the most trying times of 
their lives with illness and weakness. Some lose their homes, their families, and 
even their lives before Social Security recognizes their needs. 

The system makes these people wait years for an answer as to whether they are 
too sick, in Social Security's view, to work anymore for a living. 

There are two problems I have identified in my district: 

(1) LENGTH OF TIME FOR A JUDGE TO SCHEDULE A HEARING 

I thank Mr. Callahan for requesting a hearing on this problem. 

Today, one of my constituents from the Eastern Shore, or from Anne Arundel 
County of Maryland, waits 730 days from the first dav of application to receipt of 
the actual check. You may note that the request for a hearing with an Administra- 
tive Law Judge is actually step 3 in the process of applying for Social Security Dis- 
ability Benefits. The initial application, aenial and reconsideration steps, often han- 
dled by a constituent thinking it should be a straightforward case, can take four to 
five months. The nine Administrative Law Judges in Baltimore Maryland have a 
backlog of 700,000 cases. 

My caseworkers have noted that the problem has only gotten worse in recent 
years. Mr. Chairman, 1 hope we get to the root cause. Is it under staffing? Is it 
waste and fraud by applicants? It is unconscionable to ask our American citizens 
who are sick and in desperate need, to wait 730 days for a favorable decision and 



a check from Social Security. I understand that pilot projects at Social Security 
headquarters are underway. These need to be sped up and put out with the Admin- 
istrative Law Judges. 

My recommendations: I believe we need more Administrative Law Judges to re- 
view cases, have more staff to prepare and finish cases, and expand Social Security 
pilot projects to cover Administrative Law Judges. 

(2) DELAYS ONCE A DECISION IS MADE BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE 

Mr. Chairman, let's say my constituent obtains a favorable decision. This would 
not be unusual; a study "by the General Accounting Office in the late 1980s found 
that about two thirds of all denied applications were reversed at the Administrative 
Law Judge level. 

Let's say my constituent has won, and Social Security agrees that they are eligible 
for disability. My caseworicers report that it can be another four months for the 
award to go out. Another 120 days! Why? Well, my caseworkers have learned that 
the decision must be written up; it must be typed; it must be reviewed. This takes 
up to sixty days. Then the case can be sent out to the payment center where it can 
be another sixty days before the check is issued. 

I understand that support staff are rotated to different tasks; I don't oppose it, 
but if it contributes to the delay in an award going out, it needs to be rethought. 
Social Security may need certain people on certain cases so that a constituent works 
with one Social Security caseworker. 

My recommendation: When an Administrative Law Judge reaches a favorable de- 
cision, dedicate enough support personnel to help the Administrative Law Judge so 
that the check can go out in 30 d!ays. 

Everyday, our constituents come down with cancer, heart and stroke disease, or 
newer diseases like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or lupus, where they cannot work. 
They have contributed to Social Security, and are frustrated with having to wait 730 
days for money they may desperately need to keep their homes ana families to- 
gether. Mr. Chairman, thank you again for this opportunity. I hope we can all work 
together to fix this disgraceful backlog problem. 

Mr. Callahan. While I have been fortunate not to personally 
have to have gone through the difficult process of filing for disabil- 
ity benefits, we have with us one of my constituents who has not 
been quite so luckv. His name is John Burge, and you'll hear his 
story today as well. Now, this is a hearing tor John Burge and all 
of the John Burges in this country. Like you and most of my col- 
leagues here in Congress, I spend a good deal of my time serving 
as an intermediary between my constituents and the various Fed- 
eral agencies. Although I've never minded this particular part of 
the jo&— in fact, it might be one of the most rewarding parts of our 
jobs — I've always felt it was a sad comment in the times in which 
we live that a person has to contact his or her Member of Congress 
in order to get the benefits to which they are entitled. In my opin- 
ion, Mr. Chairman, either these people are eligible for these bene- 
fits or they are not. 

While I feel this way about most Federal programs, this is espe- 
cially true of a person s right to receive disability benefits from the 
Social Security Administration. As such, several years ago I began 
to take an interest in the Mobile Office of Hearings and Appeals, 
especially after I realized just how backed-up their caseload had 
become. As far back as September 1993, I met with then-Chief Ad- 
ministrative Law Judge Frank De Bellis, as well as the office man- 
ager at the time, Warren Bullen, to discuss the backlog in Mobile. 

In recent months, I have met with other officials of the Social Se- 
curity Administration concerning our particular situation, including 
Acting Commissioner Shirley Chater, Chief Administrative Law 
Judge Charles Boyer, and Regional Chief Administrative Law 
Judge Henry Watkins from the Atlanta regional office. Although I 
was promised on many occasions that corrective action woulcf be 



10 

taken to alleviate this tremendous backlog, I have, frankly, seen 
little change over the 2-year period. 

In fact, it was not until I requested this hearing which you grant- 
ed to me, Mr. Chairman, that I began to see any significant im- 
provements. At one meeting with Judge Watkins in Mobile, I was 
informed that the best way to see positive results was through 
positive reinforcement of the judges and staff. While I am all tot 
giving praise and a pat on the back when it is justified, I must tell 
you I continue to have grave concerns about the operation of the 
Mobile office. 

Today, I would like to share with you and this subcommittee two 
particular statistics which I believe demonstrate the poor and, in 
my opinion, unacceptable performance of the Mobile office. Let me 
direct your attention to chart 1, figure 1, which shows the fiscal 
year 1994 regional average disposition per administrative law 
judge per month was 41.9 cases. 

On the same chart you will note that the Mobile office was 24.4, 
a little over half of the rest of the Nation. Now compare this with 
figure 2, which shows the fiscal year 1995 regional average in- 
creased to 44.9 dispositions per month, while the Mobile office av- 
erage improved to 34.2. Although the Mobile office average in- 
creased almost 10 cases per month after I made this request, it still 
fell well below the regional average and far below many of the 
other region IV offices. Average dispositions refer to the number of 
decisions rendered per judge per month. 

Another strong indication that the Mobile HO is below perform- 
ance level is shown in chart 2 on figures 3 and 4 it was 317 days 
for the region, while the Mobile average processing time was 402 
days. Processing time is the number of days it takes to dispose of 
a case, from the day the request for a hearing is filed to the day 
the decision is mailed to the claimant. Now compare this with fig- 
ure 4, which shows that while fiscal year 1995 average processing 
time for the region increased to 355 days, the Mobile operation sky- 
rocketed to 517. In fact, the national average processing time for 
1995 was 349 days — almost 6 months less than that of the Mobile 
office. Believe me, this is not the kind of progress I was hoping to 
find. 

All of this leads to several questions, with the first and most ob- 
vious being. Why are we here and what do we hope to accomplish 
with this hearing? We are all aware in the increase in original So- 
cial Security claims being filed nationwide. We're also well aware 
of the fiscal constraints being placed on practically every Federal 
agency, but there seems to be a problem in Mobile which is unique 
to the system. Our mission here is not to criticize, but to ensure 
that claimants have the most timely and equitable hearing pos- 
sible. 

I hope this hearing will assist in the process to answer the fol- 
lowing questions: Why are the disposition rates for processing time 
not in line with the regional or national average? Was a gag order 
imposed on the Mobile judges to prohibit them from talking to me, 
and is this a policy practice in other parts of the country? Did the 
Atlanta or Falls Church office have anything to do with the delay 
of information we requested from the Mobile office, and subse- 



11 

quently requested from the Social Security Administration under 
the Freedom of Information Act? 

Let the record show, Mr. Chairman, that if the disposition rates 
and processing times in Mobile had been consistent with the na- 
tional or even regional averages, we would not be here today. I fail 
to understand wny an AU in Charlotte, NC, or Charleston, SC, 
can dispose of twice as many cases per month as the ALJ's in Mo- 
bile. Are the individual cases in the Mobile district such that they 
are twice as hard to determine eligibility? I should think not. 

In an attempt to get a handle on what was going on in Mobile, 
I repeatedly tried to meet with the ALJ's to see what the cause was 
for this growing backlog. If it had been the lack of resources, I was 
prepared to come back to Washington and try to get them more 
money. If it was the fact that the judges' hands were being tied by 
someone in Atlanta or Falls Church, then I was prepared to come 
back and find a legislative remedy for that. 

Unfortunately, my repeated requests to meet with the Mobile 
judges fell on deaf ears, which raises the question: is there any 
compelling reason why my request to engage in a face-to-face meet- 
ing with mese judges was ignored? After all, both judges and Con- 
gressmen are paid oy the taxpayers to serve the same constituents; 
it's just that they have one responsibility, and I have another. 

I'd also like to know if there was a gag order preventing these 
judges from Mobile from talking with me, and, if so, who issued 
this gag order? I raise this question, Mr, Chairman, because I have 
heard from several of the judges individually — and unofficially, I 
might add — and all of them have said they thought a face-to-face 
meeting would be constructive, but they were told that such a 
meeting should not take place. Who said this? And why? I request, 
Mr. Chairman, that you pursue these questions on my behalf. I 
would also like to point out to this subcommittee that not only has 
there been much foot-dragging as it relates to the disposition of 
cases, but I'm troubled by the fact that on October 19, 1995, I re- 
quested specific information from the Mobile office from Chief 
Judge Frank De Bellis. In addition, I sent a similar request, this 
time under the Freedom of Information Act, the next day, to Mr. 
Vincent Sanudo, Office of Public Inquiries within the Social Secu- 
rity Administration. On numerous occasions, I personally called 
Mr. Sanudo's office and was informed each time that they were 
working with the Atlanta regional office to provide this material. 
The good news is this information was finally forwarded to me; un- 
fortunately, it arrived in mid-April, 6 months after I asked for it. 
Mr. Chairman, I again ask you to pursue this on my behalf. When 
was this information gathered? Was there a delay in it being sent 
to my office? I believe it is necessary to share with you a bit of ad- 
ditional information I have received since the original scheduled 
hearing date of April 19, 1996. I recently received a letter from 
Judge Boyer dated May 15, 1996, in response to my concerns ad- 
dressed in this testimony. He comments on the information I re- 
quested under FOIA that states their response was delayed due to 
missing documents and time-intensive research. For your informa- 
tion, Mr. Chairman, it was alleged to me that this information was 
collected by Judge De Bellis and was ready to be sent to me two 
days after I made the request; if this was the case, why didn't they 



12 

send the information? Why did it take 6 months to be delivered to 
my office? 

Regarding the missing documents, I beHeve they are referring to 
fiscal year 1995 dockets. Well, I have those original documents in 
my possession today, as I have had all along, and I can certainly 
see why someone might want to withhold this information from me. 
There were many days where our judges held no more than two 
hearings a day, and weeks at a time where they held none. I would 
like to think that there's a good explanation for this, but I can't 
imagine what the explanation might be. 

Judge Boyer also assured me in his letter that there is no direc- 
tive prohibiting the ALJ's from speaking with me. With this assur- 
ance in mind, my office recently attempted to conduct a telephone 
survey of all region IV HO's. Mr. Chairman, once again, word got 
out about this survey and offiice managers became reluctant to talk 
to my staff. In fact, I have in my hand an E-mail from Margie 
Cargile in the Atlanta office addressed to each of the region IV 
HO's stating: "We have been advised by OCALJ that if Congress- 
man Callahan calls you, you should advise them that all informa- 
tion requests must be referred to the Atlanta regional office, and 
that he or she should contact the acting regional management offi- 
cer. Do not provide any information. I need to know if you received 
such a call, and if you answered any of the questions, what your 
answers were." 

I don't know about you, Mr. Chairman, but if you'll refer to my 
survey, exhibit C, I'm sure you'll agree that these questions are 
fairly general in nature and could best be answered by a local office 
manager. It seems, however, someone has something to hide. Once 
again, Mr. Chairman, I request that you pursue these questions on 
my behalf. 

Over the years, I have received hundreds of letters and I've 
shared some of them with you today. Unfortunately, these are not 
tales of the greatness of America; instead, they are horror stories 
of lost homes, repossessed automobiles, bankruptcies, and canceled 
health insurance policies as a result of sometimes waiting 2 years 
or longer for a claim to be processed. I can assure you there is not 
one person in this room who would care to experience the stress 
and anxiety associated with this process, and these people should 
not have to either. As I said, I've included, I think, 400 or 500 let- 
ters from people in my district for your perusal. But these are just 
some of the stories I've heard during my 12 years as a Member of 
Congress. As I mentioned earlier, in a few minutes we will hear 
first-hand from Mr. Burge who will tell his story in his own words. 

Mr. Chairman, we should not have to listen to these horror sto- 
ries any longer, for the taxpayers of my district, as well as our 
great Nation, deserve better. Chairman Gekas, I am aware of your 
bill, H.R. 1802, and I applaud you for looking into the matter of 
the AU's. Maybe it is the necessary vehicle to reform and stream- 
line the system, and if it is, I will gladly give it my support. How- 
ever, I must tell you that based on my own experiences, it is my 
belief that the ALJ's should first become more accountable before 
Congress considers giving them more autonomy. 

I'm also aware of the GAO reports regarding short-term disabil- 
ity and the long-term program redesign. The GAO clearly states 



13 

that it is doubtful that STDP will reach its goals by the projected 
date of December 1996. I am skeptical as to whether or not the 
long-term program redesign will be in place even by the year 2000. 
Furthermore, it is my understanding that the STDP allows experi- 
enced OHA senior attorneys the temporary authority to conduct ex- 
panded case development and issue revised reconsideration allow- 
ances. I have witnessed this initiative in the Mobile office and I 
feel that because of it, many cases have been saved from going 
through the costly and time-consuming hearing process. This, no 
doubt, is in the best interest of the claimants. 

My questions are as follows: If the SSA hires an additional 500 
staff attorneys to issue revised reconsiderations, do we really need 
administrative law judges? Do staff attorneys have decisional inde- 
pendence? Are they protected under the Administrative Procedure 
Act? Do they have Hfetime appointments? I would not be surprised 
if the answer to every one of these questions is, "no." On the other 
hand, are they required to follow time and attendance require- 
ments? Are they accountable to their supervisors? Of course they 
are. But can the same accountability standards be applied to our 
ALJ's and, if so, are they being applied? 

Speaking of time and attendance records, I would like to tell you 
a little of what has been alleged to me about some of our Mobile 
ALJ's. I understand we have a couple of judges who, on a regular 
basis, disregard the required time and attendance regulations by 
arriving late and leaving early; however, they claim to have worked 
the full 8-hour day. Any other emplovee in the Mobile office would 
be charged leave time for coming in late and leaving early. Do you 
think these judges take a couple of hours leave time every day? Of 
course not. Judge Boyer stated to me on November 7, 1995, that 
he will not tolerate time and attendance requirement violations. 
Perhaps Judge Boyer should visit the Mobile office for a while and 
see first-hand the ALJ's who are abusing the system. 

I would also ask Judge Boyer to look into what has become a fre- 
quent charge of some of my constituents, and that is the policy of 
judges refusing to hear a case because the claimant is not rep- 
resented by an attorney. There have been reports of one of the 
judge's assistants passing out a piece of paper to the claimant sug- 
gesting the name of a lawyer, just in case a person doesn't know 
one. If this has happened, and I have heard from enough people to 
believe that it has, then I would ask. Is this an acceptable practice? 

One constituent contacted me recently concerning a waiver claim. 
She said, "I've had four notices for a hearing date and I have ap- 
peared for each one fully prepared to represent my case. I arrived 
each time without an attorney because I am capable of represent- 
ing myself. The law clearly states that I may have a representative, 
not that I must have one. All four times. Judge Smith refused to 
allow me to give any testimony or to represent myself." 

Along these lines, I believe there should be a concern about a 
system where the Government, in effect, is acting as a collection 
agency for attorneys who represent claimants. Additionally, it ap- 
pears that these lawyers are able to benefit financially from delays 
in the system, while the claimants most definitely do not profit in 
any way, shape, form, or fashion. Mr. Chairman, this matter has 
been brought to my attention by numerous attorneys in Mobile, as 



14 

well as claimants; something just doesn't square here, and that's 
not all. 

Last September, my office was called by an official with the local 
Social Security Administration office to report a crisis situation. He 
had a claimant on the phone threatening suicide. She had been told 
by an ALJ that she would have her disability by the first of May 
1995. She had iust received an eviction notice, had no money for 
medication, and still had never received a decision on her claim. 
My staff member spoke to the ALJ assigned to the claimants's case 
and was told that he did not have time to pull up the file. The 
claimant was 8V2 months pregnant with a gun to her head. 

Finally, there is the example of a judge in Mobile who only dis- 
posed of 22 cases during fiscal years 1994 and 1995 combined. 
This, obviously, is unacceptable when the regional average is over 
40 dispositions a month. I might say that that particular judge 
averaged less than one case per month. When I inquired into this 
matter, I was told that the problem would be taken care of. Do you 
know what the solution was? The administrative law judge was 
given mental disability retirement which, I understand, in some 
cases provides for generous benefits. Is that not the ultimate slap- 
in-the-face for the claimants they serve? The talk now is that the 
judge is planning to set up a law practice in Mobile that represents 
OHA claimants. If he's mentally disabled and could not function as 
an administrative law judge, is he capable of representing my con- 
stituents? The taxpayers, once again, deserve better. 

While on the subject of disability retirement, allow me to raise 
a couple of other questions: is there adequate revolving-door protec- 
tion to ensure judges who leave the bench can't immediately go out 
and practice before their former colleagues? And what number of 
former AU's are doing just this? Maybe, because of the recent 
problems we've had in Mobile, I'm more aware of the AU's than 
I once was, but it is not uncommon to see an ad on television or 
in the newspaper promoting some attorney who boasts that he can 
best represent the claimant because he is a former AU. As a mat- 
ter of fact, they run ads in a local publication in Mobile saying, 
"Sonny Callahan can't get your Social Security for you; I can, be- 
cause I'm a former administrative law judge." 

On a positive note, I'm ^lad to see that the backlog in Mobile has 
decreased by 2,000 cases just since I requested this hearing. Obvi- 
ously, we are moving in the right direction; however, from a long- 
term standpoint, I am rightfully concerned about the number of 
Mobile HO cases being handled by other hearing offices. While I 
applaud the decision to bring in ALJ's from other offices who have 
come to Mobile's rescue, I think it is imperative that we see real 
progress in the form of self-sustaining offices before we crack open 
the champagne bottle. 

Mr. Chairman, at the outset I thanked you and this subcommit- 
tee for agreeing to put the spotlight on Mobile's HO; I want to 
again extend my heartfelt thanks. Since my request, I've heard 
from dozens of other Members who have expressed their concerns 
over similar situations in their districts. Over the coming weeks 
and months, this subcommittee and this Congress will be looking 
at ways to improve our hearings and appeals system, and I am 
hopeful that some of the facts tnat I have shared with you today 



15 

will play a positive role in ensuring that whatever changes come 
about are both meaningful and productive. 

Before I conclude, I would like to ask that the subcommittee con- 
sider the following requests: until the Mobile HO has come up to 
the regional average, if not the national average, for the disposition 
rate as well as the processing time, I would like to see the Mobile 
HO submit to this subcommittee, as well as to this Member of Con- 
gress, a quarterly report on progress. I would also like to see this 
subcommittee address the wisdom of lifetime appointments of 
ALJ's with no real mechanism for removal. Another concern that 
you might want to look into is the possibility of the AU's writing 
their own decisions, as it is my understanding that Mobile ALJ's 
do not write theirs, while many of the ALJ's in other offices do. 

While I am by no means an expert on the Social Security Admin- 
istration in general, or the ALJ's specifically, I do believe the prob- 
lems we encountered in Mobile have given me a unique perspective 
into this process. My goal has never been to embarrass the admin- 
istrative law judges or the staff of the Mobile office of hearings and 
appeals; it has simply been to bring a resolution to this colossal 
backlog to ensure claimants receive a speedy and just decision. And 
when I refer to claimants, as I have throughout my testimony 
today, let us remember that we're not talking about the nameless, 
faceless people who happen to have a Social Security number and 
a whole host of problems. We're talking about the John Burges of 
America. 

You see, when someone contacts me, they do so because they too 
often feel like they've come to the end of their rope. They don't 
know where else to turn or what else to do, and each time, without 
exception, my concern has not been whether they're Republicans or 
Democrats, or whether they're black or white. My objective has al- 
ways been to try to ensure that the system works as equally and 
fairly for someone in Mobile, AL, as it does for someone in Harris- 
burg, PA. These are real people, Mr. Chairman, with real problems, 
and they deserve better than what they have been receiving. And 
I hope something positive will result from today's hearing that will 
give them reason to believe that the system does work. 

For the record, Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank Chief Ad- 
ministrative Law Judge Frank De Bellis for his willingness to work 
with my staff and with me over the last couple of years. Frankly, 
I was surprised last year; just when Judge De Bellis was cooperat- 
ing with me trying to bring about the positive changes in the Mo- 
bile office, I received a letter announcing his resignation as Chief 
Judge. I regret any action that might have been taken against him 
might be due to my intervention in this matter. Additionally, I ap- 
preciate Judge Boyer's cooperation during this time. He and his 
staff have worked diligently to answer my requests and concerns. 
I think it is important to note Judge Habermann's presence here 
today. Much of the recent progress that has been made in case dis- 
position has occurred during his brief tenure as Acting Chief 
Judge, and for that I am very grateful. 

Once again, Mr. Chairman, I plead your forgiveness for my 
lengthy statement, but I thought that I ought to try to convey to 
you a sincere problem that I have in Mobile, AL, and hope that this 
testimony and this hearing today will provide you some adequate 



16 

and constructive information as you go through this tedious process 
of trying to reform a system that is amuck. Thank you, Mr. Chair- 
man. 
[The prepared statement of Mr. Callahan follows:] 

Prepared Statement of Hon. Sonny Callahan, a Representative in Congress 
From the State of Alabama 

INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 5 to 51 HERE 

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opponunity you have afforded me today to take a closer 
look at the problems facing the Social Security Administration, Office of Hearings and Appeals 
(OHA) in Mobile, .•\Jabama Although I realize this hearing regards the Mobile Hearing Office, 
I would like to point out that Speaker of the House. Newt Gingrich, has made me aware of a very 
similar problem in his district in Georgia. In fact. Speaker Gingrich has a written testimony 
illustrating that fact. Additionally, my good friend and colleague from Birmingham, Spencer 
Bachus, has also submitted testimony concerning the OHA situation in his district, and Mr. 
Chairman, I ask that their statements be made pan of the permanent record as well. 

While I have been fortunate not to have personally gone through the difficult process of 
filing for disability benefits, we have with us one of my constituents who has not been quite so 
lucky. His name is John Burge and you will hear his stor\' today This hearing is for John Burge 
and all the John Burges in this country. 

Like you, and most of my colleagues here in Congress, I spend a good bit of my time 
serving as an intermediary between my constituents and the various federal agencies Although I 
have never minded this panicular paa of the job — in tact it can often be some of the most 
rewarding work we Members do — I have always felt it was a sad comment on the times in 
which we live that a person has to contact his or her congressman in order to get the benefits to 
which they are entitled. In my opinion, Mr Chairman, either these people are eligible for these 
benefits or they are not 

While I feel this way about most federal programs, this is especially true of a person's 
right to receive disability benefits from the Social Security .Administration. 

As such, several years ago. I began to take an interest in the .Mobile Office of Hearings 
and .Appeals (Mobile HO), especially after I realized just how backed up their caseload had 
become. .A.s far back as September 1993, I met with then-Chief Administrative Law Judge Frank 
M. De Bellis, as well as the otTice manager at the time. Warren Bullen. to discuss the Mobile 
HO's backlog of cases. 

And in recent months, I have met with other officials of the Social Security 
Administration concerning this situation, including .Acting Commissioner Shirley S. Chater, 
Chief Administrative Law Judge Charles R Boyer and Regional Chief .Administrative Law 
Judge Henry G Watkins from the .Atlanta Regional OtTice. 



17 



Although I was promised on many occasions that corrective action would be taken to 
alleviate this tremendous backlog, I have frankly seen very little change over a 2-year period. In 
fact, it was not until I requested this hearing that I began to see any significant improvemertts. 
At one meeting with Judge Watkins in Mobile, I was informed the best way to see positive 
results was through positive reinforcement of the judges and staff. While I am all for giving 
praise and a pat on the back when it is justified, I must tell you I continue to have grave concerns 
over the operation of the Mobile HO. 

Today, I would like to share with you and this subcommittee two particular statistics 
which I believe demonstrate the poor and in my opinion, unacceptable, performance of the 
Mobile HO Let me direct your attention to Chart 1, Figure 1, which shows the Fiscal Year 1994 
regional average dispositions per administrative law judge (ALJ) per month was 41.9 cases. On 
the same chart, you will note the Mobile HO average was 24.4. 

Now compare this with Figure 2 which shows the FY95 regional average increased to 
44.9 dispositions per month while the Mobile HO average improved to 34.2. Although the 
Mobile HO average increased almost 10 cases per month, it still fell well below the regional 
average and far below many of the other Region IV offices. (Average dispositions refer to the 
number of decisions rendered per judge per month). 

Another strong indication the Mobile HO is below average performance level is shown 
on Chart 2 in Figures 3 and 4. Look at the FY94 average processing time (in days) for Region 



! FY94 Average Dispositions Per AU Per Montfi 
Regional Average vs. Mobile HO Average 


! 


I 

■ 1 




jSO- 


Ijai 




.40- 


fl 






30- 


1 




^m 


! so- 


t 




L 


lo- 


r 




f 










Regional Average 


Mobile HO Average 



Figure 1 



IV; it was 3 1 7, while the Mobile HO average processing time was 402 days. (Processing time is 
the number of days it takes to dispose of a case from the day the request for a hearing is filed to 
the day the decision is mailed to the claimant) Now compare this with Figure 4 which shows 
that while the FY95 average processing time for the region increased to 355 days, the Mobile 
HO skyrocketed to 517. In fact, the national average processing time for FY95 was 349 days — 



18 



almost 6 months less than that at the Mobile HO. Believe me, this was not the kind of 
"progress" I was hoping to find. 



FY95 Average Dispositions Per ALJ Per Month 
Regional Average vs. Mobile HO Average 



50- 



40 

i L 
!30-f 

j20^' 
i i 

lio- 



I J 




Regional Average Mobile HO Average 



Figure 2 



FY94 Average Processing Time (in days) 

Regional Average vs. Mobile HO Average 




Regional Average Mobile HO Average 



Figure 3 



19 



FY95 Average Processing Time (in days) 




Figure 4 



All of this leads to several questions, with the first and most obvious being, why are we 
here and what do we hope to accomplish with this hearing? We are all aware of the increase in 
original Social Security claims being filed nationwide. We are also all aware of fiscal 
constraints being placed on practically every federal agency. But there seems to be problems in 
the Mobile HO which are unique to this system. Our mission here is not to criticize, but to 
ensure that claimants have the most timely and equitable hearing possible. I hope this hearing 
will assist in a process to answer the following questions: 

► Why are the disposition rates and processing times not in line with the regional, or 
national, average' 

► Was a gag order imposed on the Mobile judges to prohibit them from talking to me and is 
this a policy practiced in other parts of the country? 

► Did the Atlanta or Falls Church office have anything to do with the delay of information 
we requested from the Mobile HO and subsequently requested fi-om the Social Security 
Administration under the Freedom of Information Act? 



Let the record show if the disposition rates and processing times in Mobile had been 
consistent with the national, or even regional, averages, then we would not be here today. 
However, I fail to understand why an ALJ in Charlotte, North Carolina, or Charleston, South 
Carolina, can dispose of twice as many cases per month as those ALJs in the Mobile HO. Are 
the individual cases in the Mobile district such that they are twice as hard to determine eligibility 
as these other areas? I should think not. 



20 



In an attempt to get a handle on what exactly was going on in the Mobile HO, I 
repeatedly tried to meet with the .ALJs to see what was causing this growing backlog. If it had 
been a lack of resources, I was prepared to come back to Washington and try to get them more 
money. If it was the fact that the judges' hands were being tied by someone in Atlanta, Falls 
Church or Baltimore, I was prepared to come back and try to find some legislative remedy to that 
as well. 

Unfortunately, my repeated requests to meet with the Mobile judges fell on deaf ears, 
which raises the question, is there any compelling reason my requests to try to engage in a face- 
to-face meeting with these judges was ignored'' After all, both judges and congressmen are paid 
by the taxpayers to serve the same constituents, it's just that they have one responsibility to carry 
out their duties, and I have another 

I'd also like to know if there was a gag order preventing these judges in Mobile from 
talking with me and if so, who issued it'^ I raise this question, Mr. Chairman, because I have 
heard from several of the judges individually — and unofficially, I might add — and all of them 
said they thought a face-to-face meeting would be constructive, but they were told that such a 
meeting should not take place. Who said this"!* And why'' Mr Chairman, I request you pursue 
this on my behalf 

Mr. Chairman, I would also point out to this subcommittee that not only has there been 
much "foot dragging ' as it relates to the disposition of these cases, but I am also troubled by the 
fact that on October 19, 1995, I requested specific information on the Mobile HO from Chief 
Judge Frank De Bellis. In addition, I sent a similar request, this time under the Freedom of 
Information Act, the next day to Mr Vincent Sanudo, Office of Public Inquiries with the Social 
Security Administration. 

On numerous occasions, I contacted Mr Sanudo' s office and was informed each time 
they were working with the Atlanta Regional Office to provide this material The good news is 
this information was finally fonvarded to me, unfortunately, it arrived in mid-April, six months 
after it was requested. Mr. Chairman, I again ask you to pursue this on my behalf When was 
this information gathered'' Why was there a delay in it being forwarded to my office? 

I believe it necessary to share with you a bit of additional information I have received 
since the originally scheduled hearing date of April 19, 1996 I recently received a letter from 
Chief Judge Boyer dated May 15, 1996, in response to my concerns addressed in this testimony 
(see Exhibit A). He comments on the information I requested under FOIA and states that their 
response was delayed due to missing documents and time intensive research For your 
information, Mr. Chairman, it was alleged to me that this information was collected by Judge De 
Bellis and was ready to be forwarded to me two days after I requested it. If this is the case, why 
did it take six months to be delivered to my office 

Regarding the missing documents, I believe they are referring to the F'Y'95 dockets 
Well, I have those original documents in my possession today as I have had all along, and I can 



21 



certainly see why someone might want to withhold this information fiom me. There were many 
days where our judges lield no more than 2 Itearings a day and weeks at a time when they held 
none. I would like to think there's a good explanation for this, but I cant imagine that there is. 

Judge Boyer also assures me in his letter that there is no directive prohibiting the ALJs 
from speaking with me. With this assurance in mind, my office recently attempted to conduct a 
telephone survey of all the Region IV HOs Mr. Chairman, once word got out about this survey. 
Office Managers became reluctant to talk to my staff In fact, I have in my hand today an e-mail 
(Exhibit B) from Margie Cargile in the Atlanta RO addressed to each Region IV HO stating 
"...we have been advised by OCALJ that if Congressman Callahan's office calls you should 
advise them that ALL INFORMATION REQUESTS MUST BE REFERRED TO THE 
ATLANTA REGIONAL OFFICE, AND THAT HE/SHE SHOULD CONTACT THE ACTING 
REGIONAL MANAGEMENT OFFICER MARGIE CARGILE (404-33 1-2284). Do not 
provide any information. I need to know if you received such a call and if you answered any of 
the questions what your answers were." I don't know about you, Mr. Chairman, but if you will 
refer to my survey (Exhibit C), I'm sure you will agree that these questions are fairly general in 
nature and could best be answered by a local office manager. However, it sure seems that 
someone has something to hide. 

Again, Mr. Chairman, I request you pursue this on my behalf 

Over the years, I have received many letters and statements from my constituents who 
have had to endure this strenuous process. In a moment, I would like to share excerpts from just 
two of these letters. However, at this time, I ask permission to enter into the record all of the 
letters and statements from my constituents who could not be here today in person. I am 
providing to the subcommittee the actual letters, many of which are in the claimant's own 
handwriting, along with a typed, highlighted summary for your convenience. These letters 
describe in vivid detail some of the real pain and suffering which has taken place in the lives of 
these people primarily because of these unacceptable delays. 

Unfortunately, these are not the tales of the greatness of America. Instead, they are 
horror stories of lost homes, repossessed automobiles, bankruptcies and canceled health 
insurance as a result of sometimes waiting two years or longer for a claim to be processed. I can 
assure you there is not one person in this room who would care to experience the stress and 
anxiety associated with this process, and these people should not have to either. 

It is difficult enough just to hear these hean-wrenching stories. One letter I received was 
written by a claimant's wife who stated, "IVe have been reduced to begging and borrowing to 
keep him in medicine. IVe've piled up medical hills over the amount o/S87,000.... We've begged 
the doctors and nurses for medicine. We 've sold anyihiiig worth selling to keep from having to 

borrow Everything is falling apart.... We need a roof on our home.... We have had no heat since 

December. 1995. We ran out of gas to cook with in November of '95 We have put our home 

up for sale. We can't keep it now as we owe so much we will never catch up and do all the 
repairs that need to he done. " This man originally tiled for disability benefits in August, 1993. 



22 



He had his hearing on January 11, 1996, was approved and received his first check this past 
April, hnagine trying to survive for 2 '/i years with no income! 

Another claimant wrote. "I don 't know what to do anymore. lam in constant pain, day 
and night. I live in a little shack by myself, no furniture, no phone. Friends put me some gas 
butane in the tank which will last a couple more days. My electricity will be disconnected any 
day. I sleep on the floor on a strip of foam. Friends have help fed] me with utilities, but friends 
can only do so much. I am deeply in debt. One day they will find me dead and all my worries 
will be done. " 

These are but two of the hundreds of stories I have heard during my 12 years as a 
Member of Congress. As 1 mentioned earlier, in a few minutes we will hear firsthand from Mr. 
Burge, who will tell his story in his own words. Mr. Chairman, we should not have to listen to 
these horror stories any longer, for the taxpayers of my district, as well as our great nation, 
deserve better. 

Chairman Gekas. I am aware of your bill, HR 1802. and I applaud you for looking into 
the matter of ALJs. Maybe it is the necessary vehicle to reform and streamline the system and if 
it is, then I will gladly give it my support. 

However. I must tell you that based on my own experiences, it is my belief the ALJs 
should first become more accountable before Congress considers giving them more autonomy. 

I am also aware of the General Accounting Office (GAO) reports regarding the Short 
Term Disability Plan (STDP) and the long-term program redesign. The GAO clearly states it is 
doubtfiil that the STDP will reach its goals by the projected date of December, 1996, and I am 
skeptical as to whether or not the long-term program redesign will be in place by the year 2000. 

Furthermore, it is my understanding the STDP allows "experienced OHA senior 
attorneys" the "temporary authority to conduct expanded case development and issue revised 
reconsideration allowances." I have witnessed this initiative in the Mobile HO and feel that 
because of it. many cases have been saved from going through the costly and time-consuming 
hearing process. This, no doubt, is in the best interest of the claimant. 

My questions are ~ if the SSA hires an additional 500 staff attomeys to issue revised 
reconsiderations (as the GAO states they plan to do), do we really need administrative law 
judges? Do statTanomeys have "decisional independence?" Are they protected under the 
.Administrative Procedures Act? Do they have lifetime appointments? I would not be surprised 
if the answer to every one of these questions is "no." 

On the other hand, are they required to follow time and attendance requirements? And are 
they accountable to their supervisors? Of course they are. But can the same accountability 
standards be applied to our ALJs and if so. are they being applied? 



Speaking of time and attendance requirements, I would like to tell you a little of what has 
been alleged to me about some of our Mobile ALJs. I understand we have a couple of judges 
who, on a regular basis, disregard the required time and attendance regulations by arriving late 
and leaving early, however, they claim to have worked a full 8-hour day Any other employee at 
the Mobile HO would be charged leave time for coming in late and leaving early. Do you think 
these judges take a couple of hours leave time everyday'^ Of course not. Judge Boyer stated to 
me on November 7, 1995, that he will not tolerate time and attendance requirement violations. 
Perhaps Judge Boyer should visit the Mobile HO for a while and see firsthand the ALJs who are 
abusing this system. 

I would also ask Judge Boyer to look into what has become a frequent charge from some 
of my constituents, and that is the policy of judges refusing to hear a case because the claimant is 
not represented by an attorney There have even been repons of one of the judge's assistants 
passing out a piece of paper to the claimant suggesting the name of a lawyer, just in case the 
person doesn t know one. If this has happened, and I have heard from enough people to believe 
it has, then I would ask if this is an acceptable practice' 

One constituent contacted me recently concerning a waiver claim. She said, ".../ hcn'e 
had four notices/or a hearing dale and I have appeared for each one fully prepared to present 
my case. I arrived each lime wiihoul an ailorney because I am capable of representing myself 
The law clearly states that I may have a representative not that I must have one. All four times 
Judge Smith refused to allow me to give any testimony or represent myself. " 

Along these lines, I believe there should be concern about a system where the 
government, in effect, is acting as a collection agency for attorneys who represent claimants. 
Additionally, it appears these lawyers are able to benefit financially from delays in the system, 
while the claimants most definitely do not profit in any way, shape, form or fashion. Mr. 
Chairman, this matter has been brought to my attention by numerous attorneys in Mobile, as well 
as claimants. Something just doesn't square here. 

And that's not all -- last September, my office was called by an official with the local 
office of the Social Security Administration to report a crisis situation -- he had a claimant on the 
phone threatening suicide. She had been told by an ALJ that she would have her disability by 
the first of May, 1995 She had just received an eviction notice, had no money for medication 
and still had never received a decision on her claim My staff member spoke to the ALJ assigned 
to this claimant's case and was told he "did not have time"' to pull the file -- the claimant was 
8 Vz months pregnant with a gun to her head! 

Finally, there is the example of a judge in Mobile who only disposed of a total of 22 
cases during FY94 and FY95 combined! This is obviously unacceptable when the regional 
average is over 40 dispositions a month When I inquired into this matter, I was told the problem 
would be taken care of Do you know what the solution was'' This Administrative Law Judge 
was given mental disability retirement which I understand, in some cases, provides for generous 
benefits. Is that not the ultimate slap in the face for the claimants they serve'' The talk now is 



24 



that this judge is planning to set up a law practice in Mobile to represent OHA claimants. If he's 
mentally disabled and cannot function as an administrative law judge, is he capable of 
representing my constituents? The taxpayers, once again, deserve better. 

While on the subject of disability retirement, allow me to raise a couple of other 
questions. Is there adequate "revolving door" protection to ensure that judges who leave the 
bench can't immediately go out and practice before their former colleagues? And what number 
of former ALJs are doing just this? Maybe, because of the recent problems we've had in Mobile, 
I am more aware of ALJs than I once was, but it is not uncommon to see an ad on television or in 
the newspaper promoting some attorney who boasts that he can best represent the claimant 
because he is a former ALJ 

On a positive note, I am glad to see that the backlog in Mobile has decreased by 2,000 
cases since I requested this hearing. Obviously, we are moving in the right direction. However, 
from a long-term standpoint, I am rightfiaiiy concerned about the number of Mobile HO cases 
being handled by other hearing offices. While I applaud the decision to bring in ALJs from other 
offices who have come to Mobile's rescue, I think it is imperative that we see real progress in the 
form of a self-sustaining office before we crack open the champagne bottle. 

Mr. Chairman, at the outset, I thanked you and this subcommittee for agreeing to put the 
spotlight on the Mobile HO. I want to again extend my heartfelt thanks. Since my request, I 
have heard from dozens of other Members who have expressed their concerns over similar 
situations in their districts. Over the coming weeks and months, this subcommittee, and this 
Congress, will be looking at ways to improve our hearings and appeals system, and I am hopeful 
some of the facts I have shared with you today will play a positive role in ensuring that whatever 
changes come about are both meaningful and productive. 

Before I conclude, however, I would ask that the subcommittee consider the following 
requests: 

Until the Mobile HO has come up to the regional average, if not the national average for 
the disposition rate as well as the processing time, I would like to see the Mobile HO submit to 
this subcommittee, as well as to this Member of Congress, a quarterly progress report. 

I would also like to see this subcommittee address the wisdom of lifetime appointments 
of ALJs with no real mechanism for removal Another concern you may want to look into is the 
possibility of ALJs writing their own decisions, as it is my understanding that Mobile ALJs do 
not write theirs, while many ALJs in other offices do. While I am by no means an expert on the 
Social Security Administration in general or ALJs specifically, I do believe the problems we 
have encountered in the Mobile HO have given me a unique perspective into this process. 

Once again, my goal has never been to embarrass the Administrative Law Judges or the 
staff of the Mobile Office of Hearings and Appeals. It has simply been to bring a resolution to 
this colossal backlog to ensure claimants receive a speedy and just decision. And when I refer to 



25 



"claimants," as I have throughout my testimony today, let us remember that we are not just 
talking about nameless, faceless people who happen to have a Social Security number and a 
whole host of problems. We are talking about the John Surges of America. 

You see, when someone contacts me, they do so because they all too often feel they have 
come to the end of their rope. They don't know where else to turn or what else to do. And each 
time, without exception, my concern has not been whether they are a Republican or a Democrat; 
or whether they are black or white. No, my objective has always been to try to ensure that the 
system works as equally and fairly for someone in Mobile, Alabama, as it does for someone in 
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

These are real people, Mr. Chairman, with real problems. They deserve better than what 
they have been receiving. And I hope something positive will result from today's hearing that 
will give them reason to believe the system does work. 

Before closing, I would, for the record, like to thank former Chief Administrative Law 
Judge Frank M. De Bellis for his willingness to work with my staff and me over the past couple 
years. Frankly, I was surprised last year — just when Judge De Bellis was cooperating with me 
to try to bring about positive changes in the Mobile office, I received a letter announcing his 
resignation as Chief Judge. I regret any action that might have been taken against him due to my 
intervention in this matter. 

Additionally, I appreciate Judge Boyer's cooperation during this time. He and his staff 
have worked diligently to answer my requests and concerns. I also think it is important to note 
Judge Habermann's presence here today Much of the recent progress which has been made in 
case disposition has occurred during his brief tenure as Acting Chief Judge and for that, I am 
grateful. 

I truly appreciate this opponunity to make my interests known. I commend the Chairman 
and the subcommittee members for the fine work you perform for this nation and for the service 
I am confident you will continue to provide. 



10 



Offica of Heanngs and i 

5107 Lee3burg Pike 

Falls Church VA 22041-3255 



DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES Sooal Security Administration 

fc 



MAY I 5 !995 



The Honorable Sonny Callahan 
House of Representatives 
Washington, D.C. 20515 

Dear Mr. Callahan: 

This is in further response to your request for information 
on the Mobile, Alabama Hearing Office ThO) . When you 
initially requested information on hearings held in remote 
hearing sites by our Mobile Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) , 
the HO was able to locate information only on hearings 
scheduled, not on hearings held. Also, as you know, some of 
that information was not available because of missing 
itineraries. While there is no requirement to retain the 
itineraries, the office does generally retain them for a 
number of months before they are destroyed, and they hoped to 
locate all of the itineraries to complete the report. 
However, because we did not want to delay transmitting 
information that we had to you, the report was incomplete. 

At the time the documents were submitted through Freedom of 
Information Act (FOIA) channels for transmission to you, we 
began scanning some archived computer data to see if by doing 
so we would be able to provide a more complete response . 
Through the additional research, we were able to fix dates 
with the number of hearings held, rather than scheduled, 
which was the information you originally requested. We 
believe we now have a complete report of hearings held during 
Fiscal Years 1994 and 1995 by individual ALJs and have 
enclosed the report at Tab A. The costs associated with 
those trips may be incomplete because some of the travel 
vouchers were unavailable. 

I apologize for the delay in getting this additional 
information to you. It was not readily available and 
required a significant amount of time to gather from several 
archived sources . 

The time and attendance reports which you requested have been 
submitted for transmission to you under the FOIA. For your 
further information, we are enclosing copies of memoranda 
which were distributed to all ALJs. These memoranda will 
apprise you of the time and attendance policy for our field 
employees (Tab B) . I assure you that -ALJs are accountable to 
the Agency and must follow time and attendance rules and 
regulations, and I expect the Hearing Office Chief ALJs to 



27 



Page 2 ' 

enforce all time and attendance rules and regulations. If 
you have any specific information that time and attendance 
rules are not being followed in the Mobile office, I would 
appreciate your providing that information to me. 

I also want to take this opportunity to provide some 
additional information relating to some of the issues raised 
in your April 19 Statement to the Subcommittee on Commercial 
and Administrative Law which was provided to me. 

There is no question that overall performance of the Mobile 
Hearing Office (KO) has been below what we expect and there 
are a number of factors that have contributed to the poor 
performance level. However, we fully believe that sustained, 
improved performance will be realized with placement of a 
permanent local management team, training, oversight and 
direction by OHA Regional and Headquarters management, and 
improved case management by the local office with assistance 
from both OHA Headquarters and the Atlanta Regional Office. 
These changes are well underway. We are working with 
regional and HO management staff in an effort to reach our 
goals. We are in the process of selecting a new Hearing 
Office Chief ALJ for Mobile, and when the position is filled, 
we expect to see dramatic improvement from the office. 

As you discussed in your Statement, we have used permanent 
and temporary case transfers as a means of bringing the 
workload in Mobile under control, and this has helped reduce 
the pending considerably. At the end of October 1995, the 
pending per ALJ was 626 cases, and at the end of April 1996 
the pending was 483, which is slightly below the Regional 
average of 491 cases. These temporary measures will continue 
until the Mobile office can raise its production to what we 
believe is necessary to maintain a pending workload 
consistent with regional and national levels. 

I am very concerned about your belief that there exists a 
directive prohibiting the Judges in Mobile from speaking with 
you. I can tell you confidently that is not true. I would 
appreciate any additional information you may have on this 
matter. I assure you I will make it clear to the ALJs in the 
office that they have the freedom to discuss matters with you 
if they wish. 

I apologize once again for what was perceived as "foot 
dragging" on the Agency's part in gathering and forwarding 
information you requested under the FOIA. The October 19, 
1995 request to Judge DeBellis was considered a FOIA request 
and referred to the appropriate component for processing. It 
required a considerable amount of staff time for the Mobile 
office to gather the ALJ travel infor^.ation because so many 



28 



Page 3 



documents had to be searched and listed, and forwarding the 

information through the FOIA routing procedures took an 
additional amount of time. 

With respect to your discussion on OHA' s hiring of staff 
attorneys, the plan has never been to hire 500 staff 
attorneys this year. A few months ago we were given 
authority to hire 75 temporary staff attorneys, which we have 
done, and just recently we received authority to hire 75 
more. We do have slightly over 500 staff attorneys who were 
temporarily promoted in Fiscal Year 1995 into the senior 
attorney position to help reduce Lhe hearings workload. 
These attorneys through temporary regulatory authority are 
authorized to issue fully favorable decisions only in cases 
where the evidence of record supports a favorable action. 
They also may obtain additional evidence to clarify the 
record if they believe the additional evidence will result in 
a fully favorable decision without the time and expense of an 
ALJ hearing. Senior attorneys have no authority to hold 
hearings . 

In response to your comment on unrepresented claimants, there 
is no requirement that a claimant be represented at a 
hearing. Claimants have the right to representation or may 
represent themselves if they choose. When a Request for 
Hearing is received in the HO and there is no indication that 
a representative has been retained, HO staff send material to 
the claimant which lists free legal services, or lists 
referral services (e.g., the local bar) which the claimant 
can use to obtain an attorney for a fee. If the claimant 
decides against representation, the ALJ is to proceed with 
the hearing. Because of your assertions, however, we plan to 
follow up with the HO to ensure that the Judges are not 
refusing to proceed with hearings when a claimant arrives 
unrepresented . 

I appreciate your concern regarding procedures for handling a 
case where the claimant has threatened suicide. Per our 
national procedures, if a claimant has threatened suicide, 
the case is deemed critical and steps are taken to expedite 
the case. Every HO is aware of and, to my knowledge, follows 
these procedures. Again, if you will provide me with 
specific case information, I will investigate the matter and 
ensure that the Mobile HO is following Agency policy. 

With reference to your statement relative to a Mobile ALJ 
applying for and receiving disability retirement, we have no 
authority to determine disability for government employees. 
That authority rests with the Office of Personnel Management 
(OPM) . OPM makes a determination on an employee's personal 
application for disability benefits and the agency is 



29 



Page 4 



informed when a decision is made. Because of Privacy Act 
considerations, we cannot discuss individual disability 
claims with you. However, it is my understanding that 
additional information can be provided under the FOIA, in 
writing, if desired by you or the Sub-Committee. 

You also raised concerns about ALJs, immediately after 
retirement or resignation, setting up law practices and 
representing claimants who have filed for Social Security 
benefits. This is not prohibited; however. Federal law 
imposes very specific restrictions in such circumstances. 
For instance, there is a lifetime ban on representing someone 
whose case the ALJ decided while employed as an ALJ. There 
is a two-year ban on representing anyone whose case was 
assigned to, but not decided by, the ALJ. Again, if you are 
aware of any violations of these restrictions, I would 
appreciate your providing specific information so we can 
investigate the matter. 

You noted that many of our ALJs are writing some of their own 
decisions, but not the ALJs in Mobile. Over the last two 
years, as funding has allowed us to purchase PCs (personal 
computers) , we have provided them to Judges who are PC 
proficient. Because of needs among support staff in our 
offices, we try to place PCs where they will be most 
productive. In January 1996, five ALJs in the Mobile office 
received PCs and are now using them in their work. Mobile 
ALJs composed 17 decisions in March and 14 in April 1996. We 
expect to see this number increase as the ALJs become more 
proficient in using PCs, and we expect to see more PCs 
distributed in the coming months . 

I hope that I have responded to your concerns and have 
alleviated some of them. If you have additional questions or 
requests, I will be glad to assist you in obtaining 
information you need. 




Charles R. Boyei 

Chief Administrative Law Judge 



Enclosures 



30 



:i5: FTOm: MARUiK CARGILE at -S3G-P4 5/28/96 3:31PM (30B2 bytes : 18 In) 
To: JOHN BOBB at -S3G-F4Z36, GLENnA BOWLING at -SaQ-F4Z45, LECLA HRrTFORO ar 
-ajCi-F4Z41, KEN COCHSAN at -S3G-F4Z23, MICHAEI. J. DAVINPORT at -S3G-F4Z47, 
STSLIA EAJIGLE at -83G-F4Z31, PETER C. EDISON at -S3a-F4Z1';, DIANA FLUTY ac 
-83G-r4Z58, NORMAN FUZZELL ac -S3Q-F4Z38, AMPARO SRANA AZ -S3a-F4Z24, 
MARILYN HUESON at -S3G-F4242, VICXI HUNKIN at -S3Q-F4?:"?4 , TONI JACKSON at 
-S3G-F4Z43, ELAINE M. JENKINS at -S30-P4Z3S, DEBERA JOHNSON at -S3C-F4Z57, 
LINDA KALES at -S3G-F4Z39, TONI LAW at -S3Q-F4Z4'7 , KATHY MAYF1EL3 at 
-'S30-F4Z37, 7ILLIS MORRIS at -S3G-F4Z26, JEAN MUIRHSA3 at -•S3G-F4Z3e, 
CAROL 1. NUSS at -S3G-F4Z3e, MARIAN PARKS «t -S3a.F4249, DORIS PR2STA0E at 
-S3O-F4Z(0, ANN RAYBURN at -33a-F4Z46, JAMES RXDSNOR at -S3G-F4Z23, 
THOMAS L. ROBERTS at -S3G-F4Z32, ROR SCrfAWKER ac -830-F4ZB9, PAT SHACKELFORD 
at -S3G-F4Z21, JAKE SHANAHAN at -S3G-F4Z4e, NANCY SMITH-MORRIS at -83G-F4Z61, 
WILLIAM C. STRONG at -S3R-P47a9, BEVERLY WALXSR aC -83G-P4Z27, A.J. WILKERSOK 
a: -S3G-F4Z32, CYNTHIA ZEIS at -S3G-F4Z25, |S3G-F4 ATLANTA HO at -S3a-F4Z26, 
|S3a-F4 BIRMTNOKAM HO at -S30-F4Z21, Ifi30-P4 CHAMBLEB 110 at -a30-F4Z57, 
!S3G-F4 CHARLESTON HO at -S3G-F4Z43, | 530-74 CHARLOTTE HO at -S3Q-P4228, 
fi'^r;.?* CHATTANCOOA HO at -S3G-F4Z33, |S30-F4 COLUMDIA HO at -830-F4Z31, 
£3a-F4 FLORENCE HO at -S3G-F4Z4S, |S30-F4 PORT LAUDERDALE HO at -S3G-F4Z59, 
|S30-F4 SRSENSBORO HO ac -S3G-P4Z41, |S30-P4 GREENVILLE HO aC -S3G-F4Z32, 
IS3G-F4 HATTIESBURG HO at >S3G-F4Z4«, |S30-F4 JACKSON HO at -•S3G-F4Z27, 
S3a-P4 JACKSONVILLE HC ac -e30-F4Z23, S30-F4 KZKGSPORT HO at -S3G-F4Z47, 
'S30-F4 KNOXVILLE HO at -S30-P4Z34, |S3G-P4 LEXINGTON HO at -S3G-F4Z37, 
S30-F4 L0UI6VILLB 110 at -S3a-P4Z3e, |530-F4 MACON HO at -S3G-f4Z42, 
S3G-F« .MEMPHIS HO at .S30-F4Z36, |S3G-F4 MIAMI HO at -S3G-F4Z24, 
S3G-r4 MZDDLSaBORO HO at -a3Q-F4ZSB, |S3G-F4 MOBILE HU at -S3G-F4Z22, 
S3G-F4 MCNTGOMiaiY HO at -S30-F4Z£a, IS3G-F4 NASHVILLE HO at -S3G-F4Z3E. 
i33a-F4 ORLANDO HO <ti. -S30-P4Z2!, |S3a-F4 PAUUCAH HO Bt -53G-F4Z49, 
IS3G-F4 RALEIGH HO at •'S36-F4Z29, |S30-F4 SAVANNAH HO at -S3G-F4Z60, 
|S3G-F4 TAMPA HO at •S36-F4Z39, |S3U-M TUPELO HO at -S3G-F4Z61, |IS3G-F4 RSA 
at .330-F4Z42 
To Milirg liac: «ALL CONFIDENTIAL, »ALL -S3G-F4 FIELD OFFICES 

■: mailing liat: #FLOi, »mgt 
.object: congreaamar. callanan' e telepAone auxvay--POLLOWlTP 

Keaaage Contanta 

TO : HOCALJ 
HOM 

:* you did receive a call from Congresaman Callahan's office 
and you said that you would call back once you received 
direction and guidance from the RO, please call the staff 
person that called you back and adviae him/her that their 
information request should be referred to the Atlanta 
Regional Office, etc. 

OCALJ is very concerned that we do not have any calls that 
were net returned or followed up. If ycu hav« any further 
questions pleaae call Ruth Jordan (Acting Branch Chief, FLO 
Branch) . 



Margie Cargi1# 



31 



[4] From: MARGIE CARGILE at -S3G-F4 5/24/96 10:13AM (3867 bytea: 38 In) 
To: JOHK 30BB »t -S3G-?4Z3 6, OLSNDA BOWLING «t -S30-F4Z45, liEOLA RPTTFCRD ac 
-S3G-F4Z41. KEN COCHRAN at -93G-P4Z23, MICHAEL J. DAVENPORT at -S3G-F4247, 
STELLA EARGLE at -S3G-F4Z31, PETER C. EDISON at -fi30-?4Za«;, DIANA rUTTX at 
-S33-F4Z58, NORMAN FUZZELL ac -S3G-F4Z28, A>a»ARO ORANA at -S30.P4224, 
.MARILYN HUDSON at -S3G-F4Z42, VICKI HCNKIN at -SSO-P4234, TONI JACKSON at 
-S3G-F4Z43, ELAINE M. JENKINS ac -S3G-F4Z35, DEBERA JOHNSON at -S30-F4Z57, 
LINDA XALES at -S3G-?4Z39, TONI LAM Mt -S30-P4Z47, KATHV MAYFIELD at 
-S3G-F4237, TILLIi MORRIS at -83G-F4Z26, JEAN MDIRHEAD at -S3G-F4Z36, 
rAHDT. •,. NtTSS »T -S?G-F4Z38, MARIAN PARKS at -830-74249, DORIS PRESTACB at 
-S3G-F4Z60, ANN RAYBURN at -830-F4246, JAMES RIDBNOR at -S3G-F4222, 
THOMAS L. ROBERTS at -i3C-F4232, ROB SCHANKER at -a30-F4Z59, PAT SIIACXELPORC 
at -S3G-F4Z21, JAXE SHAHAHAN at -S3G-F4Z48, NANCY SMITH-MORRIS at -S3G-F4Z61 
WILLIAM C. STRONG ac -S3G-F4Z29, BEVERLY WALKER at -83G-r4227, A.J, WILKERSON 
at -S3G-F4Z33, CYNTHIA ZEIS at -S3G-F4Z25, |a3G-P4 ATLANTA EO at -S3G-F4Z26. 
|S3G-?4 BIRMINGHAM HO at -e3C-F4Z21, le3G-P4 aiAMBLEE HO at -S3a-P4Z57 
S3G-F4 CHARLESTON HO at -S3G-F4Z43, IS3G-F4 CHARLOTTE HO at -S3a-F4Z28, 
53G-r4 CHATTANOOOA HO at -S3G-P4Z33, |330-P4 COLUMBIA HO au -a3G-P«Z31, 
S3G-F4 FLORENCE HC at -S3G-'4Z45. |S3G-F4 FORT LAUDERDALE KO at -S3G-F4Z59 
I33Q-P4 OREESfSBORO HO at -S30-F4241, l33G-r4 GREEWVILLE MO at -S3G-F4Z22, 
;S3G-r4 HATTIESSURG HO at .83G-F4Z46, |S30-F4 JACKSON HO at -S3G-F4Z27, 
S3G-r4 JACKSONVILLE HO ciU -S33-r4223, |53G-P4 KIWGSPORX HO at -SSG-MM?, 
S3G-F4 KKOXVILLE HO at -S30-F4Z34, |S3a-F4 LEXINGTON HO at -S3G-F4Z37, 
S3a-F4 LOUISVILLE KO at -S36-F4Z36, |S3Q-P4 MACON HO at -tfJU-F4Z42, 
S3S-F4 MEMPHIS HO at -S30-F4Z36, |S3G-F4 MIAMI HO at .S3Q-F4Z24, 
S3G-F4 MIDDLESBORO HO at -S3G-F4Z5e, jSJG-M MOBILE HO at -S3G-F4Z22, 
S3G-F4 MONTGOMERY HO at -S3G-F4Z48, |S3G-F4 NASHVILLE HO at -630-F4Z35, 
;S:3G-F4 ORLANDO HO at -S3G-F4Z25, |S3Q-F4 PADUCAH HO at -S3G-P4249, 
S3G-F4 RALEIGH HO at -S3G-F4Z29, |S3G-F4 SAVANNAH HO at -S3O-F4Z60, 
|S3G-F4 TAMPA HO at -93G-F4239, I33G-F4 TOTELO HO at -S3G-P4Z61, IIS3G-F4 RSA 
at -S3G-F4Z42 **«^ 

To mailing list: #ALL CONPIEENTIAL, «ALL -S30-F4 FIELD OFFICES 

- mailiz.g list: #FL08, ting: 
.abject: Congreesman Callahan's telephone survey- -ACTION 

Massage Contents 

TO : HOCAL J 
HOM 

Regardinq ny message yesterday on the same topic, vre have 
been advised by OCALJ that if Congressman's Callahan's 
office calls you should advise tham that ALL INrORMATinN 
REOLTSTS .MUST BE REFERRED TC THE ATLANTA REGIONAL OFFICE, AND 
TKAT HE/SHE SHOULD CONTACT THE ACTING REGIONAL MANAGEMENT 
OFFICER MARGIE CARGILE (404-331-22641 . Do not provide any 
i rfonrxir.lon . 

I need ^o Know if you received auch a call and if you 
answered any of the questions what your answers were. 

We are probably going to have to provide this information 
sue CCALJ will lat ir.a know lacar in cha day. How«v«r, ehey 
advised that we should go ahead and gather the information. 
So plaaaa provide the answers co the following queetlono i 

1. Hew nany AI>Js assigned to your office? 

2. rlow mjkny ALJs write their own deeieiono? 

3 . Are all fS^a eignir.s ia and out? I£ no, hew many 



^;i> 



algn in and ouc and hew many work the regional fixed rour 
of 8:00 to 4:30? 

4. If 3. is yes, how lonq hae this practice been going 
on? 

Please reepond today by e-mail or fax If at all possible, 
but no later than Tueaday, 5/28, to the attention of your 
FLO. 



Margie Cargile 



33 

Questions for OHA managers: 

Hearing Office Phone # 

Manager's name (or contact) __^_ 



1 . How many ALJs are assigned to your office?_ 



2. How many of your ALJs write their own decisions?_ 



3. Are your judge's required to either sign in and out or keep a time sheet? 



4. If so, how long has this practice been in place? 



EXHIBIT C 



34 



The following excerpts are taken from over 125 letters I received concerning the experiences 
my constituents have endured while waiting for processing of their disability claims. For ease 
of reading, minor corrections have been made in some instances. However, the entire letters 
have all been submitted to the record in the event further information is needed. 



We did not qualify for welfare or food stamps because we had just a little bit too 
much property, a car. a truck and a boat, etc. My kids are barely supporting themselves. I 
fought this case on my own for a year and a half, and then I got a lawyer. For three and a 
half years I struggled to survive, working with help from friends I had worked with for 
years, sometimes crawling up and down steps and having to be carried by crewmen to the 
pilot house chair. A man on crutches on a tug boat is not safe! Anyone who has not been 
through something like this doesn't realize the mental strain as well as the physical pain you 
are already in-not knowing where the money for your next electric bill, or house payment, 
or anything else is coming from. It was four years to the month from the time I applied for 
Social Security disability until I received my first check. Finally my prayers had been 
answered. If it had not been for the Lord Jesus and lots of prayer and support from close 
friends, I would have never gotten through this. I had a hearing at Mobile OHA in January 
1995 before Judge Ragland (I had been before him in March 1993). In January 1995 I was 
granted my disability, but not before I was threathened by him (Judge Ragland) to be turned 
down again if I did not change my first date of disability from August 25, 1991, to August 1, 
1994. Because I struggled, suffered and worked a little bit to survive (making approximately 
$19,00 in three and a half years), I was forced to give up three years of past due benefits 
which I felt was unfair. I received my first monthly check in July 1995, and past due 
benefits check from January 1995 to June 1995 I received last month-March 1996. 

Dan Baird 
Foley, Alabama 

The waiting almost caused me a nervous breakdown I am 62 qo insurance of any kind no 
income of any kind I am homeless so to speak I am staying with family Finally, I received 
the $470.00 a month disability It took forever I filed way back in 1982. .. The constant 
waiting for a hearing is heart breaking! You lose hope You keep hoping today I'll hear 
something. It doesn't happen. I just gave up Put yourself in our place. The people who 
suffer because of the waiting, waiting, waiting. 

Shirley Young 
Mobile, Alabama 



My name is Lisa Littles I am presently receiving SSI and Medicade. It has been a long 
hard journey to get to this point I filed an appeal on July 28, 1994 I was granted a hearing 
before a judge This hearing was finally set for April 1995 .Almost a year after I filed the 
appeal, the judge gave me a fully favorable decision By this lime 1 was in a lot of pain and 
needed to be under a doctor" s care and was takinc a lot of very expensive medicine By this time 



my husband had divorced me and I was living with my mother and father. This put a great deal 
of burden upon them. I did not get my first check until January 1996. The Medicade card came 
about six weeks after that. I feel that I could have received much better care and could have 
avoided a lot of stress for me as well as my parents, if the system had worked faster. It is a very 
bad situation to be sick and in pain and have no means to get the medical care that you need. 

Lisa Littles 
Loxley, Alabama 



I lived off the generosity of family and friends. I sold anything of value to survive. This 
went on for two years. By this time, I was in debt, even borrowing $2500.00 from friends so I 
could have tests run at the University of South Alabama Medical Center. I understand that a 
great number of people apply for disability benefits. Some deserving, some not and that all 
claims need to be evaluated thoroughly Mobile County needs help in solving the problem of 
time 



Sharon Gayle Akridge 
Bayou La Batre, Alabama 



John had a hearing before an administrative law judge at the court of Hearings and 
Appeals in Mobile, AL on July 18, 1995 This took less than 5 minutes. The judge told John 
that he was approving his claim for disability benefits. We didn't receive the official decision in 
writing until October, 1995. It hadn't been signed until September 30, 1995. John received his 
first check December 1, 1995 He still hasn't received all of the money owed to him. It has been 
33 months since John first applied for Social Security. In the time it has taken we have lost just 
about everything we own. We've lost our home, our car, even our credit rating has been 
destroyed so we will probably never be able to own our own home again. John's illness has 
been devastating to our family and the hardships we have had to endure have almost been 
unbearable. It shouldn't take so long to settle a claim of this nature. We are ready to rebuild our 
lives 

Mrs. Karen H. Burge 
Citronelle, Alabama 



In early 1 990 I applied for benefits because I was hospitalized for stroke and cancer 
unable to work so I applied After hearing, 18 months, past without any word from them even 
with an attorney In 1995, I received my first benefit check. 

Seymour Gamble 
Prichard, Alabama 



I don't know what to do anymore I am in constant pain, day and night. I live in a little 
shack by myself, no furniture, no phone Friends put me some gas butane in the tank which will 
last a couple more days My electncity will be disconnected any day I sleep on the floor on a 
strip of foam Friends have help me with utilities, but friends can only do so much I am deeply 
in debt. One day they will find me dead and all my worries will be done. 

Ronnie R. Seaman 
Grand Bay, Alabama 



I became disabled in August, 1991 I had breast cancer surgery which affected me both 
physically and mentally The mental problems the OHA caused me will haunt me the rest of my 
life. The cancer surgery was, and is so hard to cope with and when I knew not what to do other 
than apply for SSI for help little did I know I would be put through years of hell. I spent time in 
a state mental facility because of all the stress they were putting me threw I became very 
suicidal and just wanted out because the OHA kept dragging their feet not worrying about 
whether I had shelter or food I had to sell my mobile home and car and move in with my 
parents because I could not pay the bills that go with having a home and I needed money for 
medical care and lots of medication I get upset just thinking about it It is time someone takes a 
drastic step concerning this very important, sad issue. I could write a book on all the terrible 
things I had to be put threw just because I needed help. Yes, it is high time Members of 
Congress learn what is going on and the suffering of many sad cases. My prayers go out to 
them. I hope I can help make it better for everyone needing help before it is too late. 

Betty Flaherty 
Brewton, Alabama 



On October, 1993 with the help of my family I filed for my Disability Benefits. I did 
not receive them until two (2) years later in 1995. These were the longest and hardest two 
(2) years of my life. They were the worst hardships in my life financially. I had no income 
and was solely dependent on my family, church, and some public assistance. All of these 
combined were just enough to have a meager life. My family had to take from their income 
to help me keep lights, gas, water, food, pressing necessary medical needs, transportation, 
medicines, and personal needs. Other times I just plain had to suffer and do without. All 
my bills went unpaid, being constantly called by creditors, begging people to be 
understanding and fair with me until something could be done about my situation. 

But the worse damage was done mentally and emotionally to me and my family. My 
disability is mental illiness and this long period with no income added to my depression, 
distress and lack of self worth. Every week the crises in my life had to be dealt with by a 
counselor. It was a verv scary and insecure time in my life. And my family because they 
are so caring and loving suffered right along with me. 

But because of the backlog of cases, they just set there unread, unevaluated. This is 



37 



what made the process so cruel. It is my sincere hope and prayer that Congress will speedily 
deal with this ardous backlog of problems to relieve others of their long delays. 

Barbara Crawford Durgin 
Montrose, AL 



I wonder why I am alive. I can't work & provide for myself & my children and am 
constantly in pain & depressed. I think if I am turned down again I will end this unending 
misery & my burden of care on others. I cannot help the fact that I am young or that little 
of my chronic illness is evident from the outside. All I know is that I am incurably ill and 
unable to get any help from the agency I spent all my working years paying into. 

Charlotte De'Fee 
East Brewton, AL 



I was very lost and frustrated about the time it took to process my disability benefit 
claims with SS. After approximately 3 years a decision was made and I was denied. Of 
course, I had to appeal and was sent to more doctors for justification or approval for my 
conditions. This took several months also and added to the sense of hopelessness even more. 
Finally a SS doctor confirmed what I had already presented to those people and a year later I 
was approved for benefits. Several more months and much correspondence later someone 
sent a letter advising me of how much I would receive. I sincerely believe the time it takes 
to get help from SS is borderline criminal. May be a little drastic to say criminal, but very 
unbelievable at any standard of proficiency or sense of decency. 

Allan J. Butler, Sr. 
Theodore, AL 



I am at the end of the rope, so to speak, and do not know what else I can do. I 
desperately need help from the Social Security Department but they just don't respond to anyone 
or anything it seems but to humiliate you... 

I am endeavoring at the present to pay off emergency room bills to three different 
hospitals and several doctors, who call me often wanting the balance.... 

I am writing concerning my disability and the hardship it has caused me over the last 5 Vi 
years since I became disabled in 1991 I have continuously had to appeal for disability and try to 
get some action taken concerning this matter, as I not only could not work but medical bills and 
other expenses have piled up over this period of time and put me under great stress as well as my 
family 

my case went before the Administrative Law Judge on February 8, 1996 and was 
approved 

I am writing this in hopes that it will help someone in the future not to have to go through 



the hardships and mental stress that being unable to work and no income has put me and my 
family through. 

Carson D Melton 
Frisco Citv, AL 



Since October of 1995, my husband's file has been at the Office of Hearings and Appeals 
awaiting a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge. I went to the OHA two weeks ago to 
review my husbands file. I was literally taken aback when I saw the abundance of files in that 
office. Congressman Callahan, there were files stacked from the floor halfway up the walls, 
everywhere you looked. There were probably ten desks (that I could see) with files piled so high 
no one could have used the desks. I just could not believe it! I recently read in the Mobile Press 
Register that the Mobile OHA was backlogged some 4,500 cases. 

My seventy five year old mother-in-law has been our sole means of support for the past 
two years. She is taking from what was supposed to be her retirement nest to provide us with 
housing and the basic necessities of life. She cannot continue to do this forever. I have been 
unable to work during this long battle with my husband's illness because I am all that he has. 
The doctors advised me early into this illness that I need not be far away from my husband due 
to his extreme suicidal ideations. My husband cannot drive because of horrendous side effects of 
his medication. Therefore, it is left up to me to take him to his weekly sessions with his 
therapists and to his appointments with his psychiatrist. 

For the first time in both of our lives, we are destitute. You see, the sad part is, my 
husband would love nothing more than to be able to work a job and provide for his family like 
any "normal" man. But sadly, my husband is not normal and may never be. 

Even as I write tonight, my husband is suffering from serious depression. He does not 
answer the telephone, answer the door or have any contact with people. Congressman Callahan, 
I fear that if things do not start looking up soon, he could be facing another hospitalization. 

How much longer are we expected to endure this hardship that we feel our own 
government has placed upon us? 

How much longer can a seventy-five year old woman continue to provide for her son and 
his wife? 

The Social Security Administration has put us through countless tasks to prove an illness 
that is well documented. Even his doctors cannot understand what is holding this up 

In closing, I would like to say that if the Social Security Administration is going to deny 
claims for disability when someone such as my husband clearly meets their criteria, then why 
write guidelines listing this criteria? We do not even have a fijil or part-time Administrative Law 
Judge here in Mobile. I was told that my husband's case would be heard whejj the ALJ comes 
back to Mobile sometime in April. As you can see, April is almost over and I have heard 
nothing. I was also told by an employee at the OHA that getting your Legislators involved 
would not help because they have no authority. 

Mrs. Roben E. Fendley 
Mobile. AL 



In March of 1994 she [my wife] applied for Social Security Disability. What followed 
was one of the most frustrating, confusing and lengthy ordeals I have ever had to contend with. 
It appears that the review procedures currently being utilized by the Social Security 
Administration has several levels of review, with each level producing overlap and duplication 
of information, records and evaluations, previously completed by prior reviews. 

This letter is not to suggest that the Mobile Office is full of incompetent people in 
responsible positions, but it is to suggest the office has serious problems in the review process 
that need immediate attention. The facts and statistics speak for themselves. It is my 
understanding that the national average for a disability claim review is approximately 349 days, 
which in itself is entirely too long to meet the goals and objectives for which the program was 
intended. The MOBILE OFFICE is reported to have an average time greatly exceeding the 
national average. In fact, the MOBILE OFFICE average claim review period is approximately 
5 1 7 days. This is 1 68 days or approximately 6 months longer than the national average. This 
translates to an average review time of approximately 50% over the national average. In the case 
of my wife's disability claim the review process exceeded 575 days even with physician records 
and hospital records being readily available. Although she was approved for disability benefits 
in Nov of 1995, these benefits were made retroactive back to Dec. of 1993. 

To date, 750 days after the review process began these retroactive benefits have not been 
paid.. 

I absolutely refuse to believe, based on the above statistics, that any employee or Appeals 
Judge in the Mobile Office is 50% inferior to the national average. Therefore, the bottleneck in 
the process must be the process itself It appears that when adequate, reliable and sufficient 
information is readily available that the process could be shortened; thus, not only increasing 
production of the Mobile Office but equally reducing the hardship on the person and family of 
the applicant. 

When illness or disaster strikes, this program which was designed by Congress to assist 
and provide relief is not meeting this intent in a reasonable time frame. It is my belief that most 
families, when disability of a bread winner occurs, could survive a short time on their own but 
not one, two or three years as has been the case in many instances. Many of these people have 
lost their homes, means of transportation, utilities and even food and medical needs due to the 
slow action in the Mobile Office. 

Congressman Callahan. I not only thank you but urge you to continue your efforts in 
seeking solutions to the dilemma in the Mobile Office involving hearings and appeals. We all 
know that the first step to resolving a problem is first to admit that we have a problem. In this 
case it appears to me that productivity and the needs and intent of the program can be met to a 
degree by getting more claims to and past the review judges But how? 

For the Mobile OHA to require a claim review period 50% longer than the national 
average probably is or should be a great embarrassment to this office itself The Mobile office 
should, along with the people of the first district, welcome a Congressional Hearing on OHA 
activities. I hope with your efforts Congress will see fit to take whatever corrective action is 
necessary 

Douglas Capps 
Satsuma. AL 



40 



If you are a single person with no income 2 years of processing is devastating ! It takes I 
'/j to 2 years. 

Stress is very bad on a person in pain It causes the pain to escalate. There were times I 
did not and could not sleep for 4 to 5 days. The pain, stress, and depression was so bad. 

If I did not have children who helped me I would have been another homeless person. 
They paid my house payment and my car balance. I had to sell things out of my home to pay 
utilities. I lost my credit with department stores. I begged for help but was turned down. 

...I started getting my Social Security Disability I don't get much. I thank God for what 
I get. It is terrible what the Alabama Social Security Administration Office of Hearings and 
Appeals puts a disable person thru. 

I understand why some people can't take the stress and commit suicide or lose everything 
and end up homeless. 

Ms. M. E. Fleming 
Mobile, AL 



We have been reduced to begging and borrowing to keep him in medicine. We've piled 
up medical bills over the amount of $87,000. We owe the drug store We've begged the doctors 
and nurses for medicine. We've sold anything worth selling to keep from having to borrow. But 
we still had to borrow from our kids and family... Everything is falling apart. Our truck needs 
work and tires. We need a roof on our home. Our heaters froze up. We have had no heat since 
December, 1995. We ran out of gas to cook with in November of '95. We had to cook on an 
electric frying pan... We have put our home up for sale. We can't keep it now as we owe so 
much we will never catch up and do all the repairs that need to be done. We are going to live in 
a trailer on our children's land in Georgia ~ back to begging again 

Mrs. Eddie Corley 
Grand Bay, AL 



During the time I was waiting for Social Security, I was a financial burden on my 
family. My mother loaned me money that she really didn't have to loan to help keep my 
bills paid. I was told by many people that it took a year or two to get a claim through S.S. 
They were right two years is a very long time with no income, and it did take a toll on me. 

William C. Dixon 
Mobile, Alabama 



I've been waiting for a hearing date for 4 months -- am facing the possibility of losing 
all I've worked for and struggling to pay medical insurance payments monthly. If there is a 



41 



reasonable explaination for this ongoing delay when doctors are unquestionably stating 100% 
disability. I wish someone would explain to me and my bill collectors. 



Martha Boiling 
Eight Mile, Alabama 



I had to wait over two years before I could get an appointment to appear in front of a 
judge. 

Aynomous 



I filed 2 times for my Social Security. They turned me down both times told me to 
get an attorney then it took me about 13 months to even get one penny from them - still 
haven't received my back pay from them. It's been going on 16 months from Dec. 1, 1995 
'til April 1996. Also, I have a 15 year old son I was trying to send to school and my wife 
got sick during August 1995 with cancer. We didn't have not one penny for hospital and 
doctors' bills and I don't think that they speeded up anything. We're still going through a lot 
of hardships all those hospital and doctors' bills we can't pay even pay any on them. 

Clarence W. Holcomb 
Loxley, Alabama 



My case was sent to the (OHA) July of 1994. My hearing was October 29, 1995. 
During this time the company that holds the mortgage on my home threatened to foreclose 
because of back insurance. We were living on my wife's SSI check and AFDC total $600.00 
a month, which barely covered our bills. Our car quit working in June of 1995. No money 
to fix it, no money to get a new one. February 1996 foreclosure notice, our home will be 
sold on front of court house steps at 1 1:00, April 9, 1996. Which is today as I write this 
letter, but we also filed bankruptcy this morning. After the hearing I expected to hear right 
away but I did not hear until March 29, 1996 that I had a favorable decision. But as of 
today we still haven't received any money. I got a letter yesterday telling me that I will 
receive back benefits. All this is very stressful causing more problems than you already 
have. These are some of the bigger problems I've had. Their are a multitude of other 
problems. 

Raul Carmona 
Millry, Alabama 



So many people that have applied for benefits, gets no results or answers because of 
slow processing, or backlog. I am waiting for an answer and some help I have no income of 



42 



my own. No family to help me. Two twin boys 6 years old to take care of. No way to 
wash clothes, no transportation. 

Rebecca Poole 
Chickasaw, Alabama 



My wife's income is all we have coming in, and it is in the amount of $214.00 
weekly for 40 hours. We cannot get any assistance, because they base it on the gross, but 
you don't live on gross, you live on net. I have not worked since June 27, 1995. Thru all 
of the stress of this situation, and having to keep everything going, my wife has developed 
medical problems, and under doctor's care. Just what would happen if she gets unable to 
work? Please tell me why I have to beg, and go to court to try and get what I have worked 
for all my life, and now I need what is justly mine. 

Louis Camiey 
Fairhope. Alabama 



I became disabled in April 1994. My hearing was tlnally in September 1995 but my 
claim had to be sent to a judge in Charleston, South Carolina! If this had not been done, I 
guess I would still be waiting for a hearing before a Mobile District Judge. This wait caused 
me to have a great deal of anxiety and certainly did not help my medical condition. 

Sandra Butts 
Mobile, Alabama 



It is bad enough to suffer the mental and physical anguish of my health problems and 
diet alone with the additional stress of having to wait years before getting results from the 
Mobile Office of Hearings and Appeals. The backlog of cases in this district are such that it 
has caused unnecessary suffering for myself as well as numerous others who are qualified 
under legal guidelines to receive their disability benefits. I am a 61 year old female who has 
worked hard all my life and paid into our system, never dreaming that I would need the 
benefits for which I have found myself in at this stage of my life. As a result of my 
numerous health problems, my insurance premiums have increased in 1995 from $125.00 per 
month (on me alone) to $425.00 per month, plus the cost of my many medications I have to 
have. My husband is already retired and we live on a limited income and the long delays on 
the OH A hearings I feel are unfair and unnecessary, placing undue financial hardship also. I 
would not wish these delays on any of you in Congress nor anyone else. 

Loretta J. Clark 
Chickasaw. Alabama 



43 



It took me almost a year and a half to finally get it going to doctor's and finally 
having to go to court for it and having to get a lawyer which I couldn't afford then and can't 
now -- on $480.00 a month. During my waiting time for it to go threw my poor mother had 
to try and keep my car payments up among other bills - doctors mostly. She also was on 
S.S. so it really caused a lot of hardship. 

Margaret Carpenter 
Theodore, Alabama 

I had received my disability from the place where I worked for one year and 6 
months, but it is not enough to live on and keep my home. So I had to file bankruptcy and 
live from hand to mouth anyway possible to get by. While I had to borrow money for 
bankruptcy which I still owe. All of this while I am waiting for my disability. I can't even 
see all my doctors or keep appointments because I am not able to pay them. 

Betty McDowell 
Mobile, Alabama 



I am writing on behalf of my son. Kenneth Rodney Mixon. He has been denied Social 
Secunty Benefits twice, and we requested a Hearing in May 1995. I have been in touch with the 
Office of Hearings and Appeals and found out it will take 8-9 months before he can have a 
heanng. Rodney has been without a job since Sept. 1994 I asked the lady at the Office of 
Hearings and Appeals if there is anyway to speed up the process and she wanted to know if we 
had a lawyer yet? I told her yes. She said we could also write a hardship letter and maybe that 
would help too. but it hasn't hastened the process. ... His wife has a job at minimum wages. 
Without Rodney having an income, they aren't able to pay their monthly bills. ..We (mom and 
dad) have been helping them pay some of their bills in order to keep them from losing their 
house Our financial situation isn't the best in the world and with all the stress in my life, I am 
on the verge of a breakdown. We have tned everything possible to help but there is nothing 
that can be done. We would not be begging for help if there was any other way out. 

Sarah Mixon 
Frisco City, Alabama 



I'm taking this opportunity to say to your face that Representative Callahan is right when 
he says something needs to be done in the First District of Alabama. 

William Smith 
Eight Mile, Alabama 



10 



44 



My family had to endure financial hardship as a result of the long period of waiting for 
financial assistance. Assistance which I feel was rightly mine having worked since the age of 17 
or the 3 years I served in the military and fought in the Korean War I would like to see steps 
taken to ensure that people who are entitled to such benefits should be awarded them in a timely 
manner 

Jack D Bamette, Sr. 
Calvert, Alabama 



In November of 1992 I applied to Social Security to establish my disability with them 
Finally in November 1994, I received a letter from Social Security advising that they would set 
up an appointment before a judge to determine if I am totally disabled. I was finally scheduled 
to go before Judge Roben S. Habermann on February 23. 1996 At this hearing the Judge ruled 
me totally disabled He told me that in 2 weeks I would receive papers showing total disability 
so that I could file for Medicare I did not receive these papers in the 2 weeks time allotted. 
After 3 weeks, on March 1 5th, I called the OHA They said my file was still there and had not 
been processed. I called again April 5th, same story So as of the date of writing this letter, I 
have received nothing. I would like to express my concern to Congress of the problems with 
OHA. This has drug on for 3 years and 3 months and it is stiil not settled. 

Floyd Ziglar 
Coden, Alabama 



I had to appear before the Judge on March 26th, 1996, and give him my testimony, which 
I did. So now I'm waiting yet again for the Judges decision to see if I get my Disability or 
denied again. But I was told it could be 3 months to 1 year before I get a decision. This is not 
right Why should it take so long for a "Decision" to be made after you've already reached and 
went to the "Hearing" level? You as members of Congress have the power to help those that are 
disabled. It shouldn't take 2 years to get disability. 

Judy Dickens 
Mobile, .■Mabama 



I believe that the judicial system in this office (OHA) should be investigated for others 
whose cause is as severe as mine Despite the fact of my suffering a traumatic neurological 
illness, I had to suffer severely financially from 1991 to 1995 from heartless, time consuming, 
unjust practice in this otfice (OHA). 

Shiriey P Matthews 
Mobile, Alabama 



45 



I can not sleep good and have uncontrollable crying. I lost everything in life that 1 
worked for and feel that I deserve help. 

Kenneth Blackmon 
Mobile, Alabama 



My husband's hearing with the Office of Hearings and Appeals was in September 1995, 
and at that time. Judge Irwin ruled him totally disabled. At this point, it took Judge Irwin's 
office until December 1995 to get the motion typed up ! ... My husband finally got his first check 
in March 1996 

Mrs. Eddie Lee Walker 
Magnolia Springs, Alabama 



When I got out the hospital, I became homeless with no way to pay my rent forcing me to 
go from friend to friends house. My car was repoed without work. In short, my life fell apart 
with only out of town family to help me ... Mr. Callahan, it took 3 years before I got any kind of 
help I was forced to work When I did find work the Social Security said that I showed I could 
work and didn't need any help!!! 

Philip M. Bell 
Mobile, Alabama 



I applied in Nov 1993 . Finally its ready to go before OHA but there is a huge backlog 
of cases so it sits their. .On Dec. 5 1995, we finally got an appointment with OHA. We went 
before the Judge with 29 different diagnosis and medical problems. After we had discussed 
three of these the Judge granted me my disability On Feb. 5 1996 I received a check. 

Cathy L. Burrus 
Magnolia Springs, Alabama 



I have waited for a hearing for about a year if not over, on two different accounts. I 
recently attended my hearing on Feb. 5th 1996 I continue to wait for a decision to be made. 
While attending the hearing, Judge Mason was extremely rude to me. I felt as though I was on 
trial for murder. 

Horace W Clark 
Bav Minette. Alabama 



46 



If it haven't been for you I don't think I would have made it over the years I have 
suffered trying to make ends meet 



Eva Gray Jones 
Mcintosh, Alabama 



I was off work one year before anything was done for me and 18 months before I 
received Medicare. Needless to say, my finances had gotten in bad shape, I was desperate 
We should not have to hire a lawyer or even go through you or so before you receive monies you 
had paid in 

Joe Ann Shehan 

Bav Minette. Alabama 



I first applied in 1992, was turned down, applied again, and a third time! . After another 
year. I had my hearing, and the months rolled by, I heard nothing, after almost another year. I 
received a letter stating I had been awarded disability benefits, and disability insurance back to 
Sept. 9, 1990. . If this process had not taken so long, I would not have all this medical bills 
from trying to work and failing. 

Julia Montgomery 
Folev, Alabama 



Trying to get my children on Social Security has been pure living hell. ..On July 94 I 
began my youngest son's David's case and in November 94 I began Christopher's. I have had to 
take time off from work and take my children to doctors and hearings. . Finally I had to get 
attorneys to take my cases which have just recently had Chris's hearing and David's will be the 
24th of this month nearly two years after starting these procedures 

James Trosclair 
Mobile. Alabama 



It should certainly not take this long for a decision I have been told that it could take a 
year to 18 months for a decision. I filed on Aug. 31, 1995 

Carl Clark 

Bavou la Batre. .Alabama 



I filled out an application for disability over a year ago I did go before the Office of 
13 



47 



Hearings and Appeals Judge on Dec. 13-95 but the Judge said he will wait to Jan 9-96 for my 
other doctor's appointment to decide whether to approve or disapprove the disability. 

Alfred R. Hadley 
Bay Minette, Alabama 



I have been waiting almost 2 years for my SSI benefits with medical papers from 2 
doctors saying that I am disabled. Have been before the judge and I am still waiting. The 
hospital and clinic has already turned my bills over to collections and threatening to sue me. The 
clinic where I go has stopped getting my medicine for me or helping me at all I cant keep 
borrowing from family and can't get it any other way. 

Clarence E. Webb, Jr. 
Prichard, Alabama 



I was diagnosed lupus in November of 1993 which I began to file for disability .1 feel 
that the process is a very long line of red tape a sick person has to go through to receive help. In 
the process of waiting for an answer I almost lost everything my parents worked hard to provide 
for me My father passed in 1994 which made it even harder for me whereas he was the bread 
winner of my family I almost lost my medical insurance that I needed to keep for my expensive 
medication and chemotherapy treatment. I think it is awful that I had to pay a lawyer to present 
my case. When I began to receive SS disability I had a lot of back bills on top of that I had to 
pay a lawver when that money could have helped me. I began receiving SS disability in Dec. of 
1995. 

Javana Funderburk 
Prichard, Alabama 



I am writing now to go before the appeal judge. I have worked since I was nine years old 
I am now 50 This is a very humiliating experience for me. I realize that we should be screened 
very closely But there should be a better system 

Doris Miller 
Mobile, Alabama 



It took me 16-1/2 months to get on disability due to the tremendous back log of cases in 
the Mobile OHA I lost almost everything I had and because of all the stress I've been under 



48 



I've also become a diabetic along with the other problems I have All of this was unnecessary 
and uncalled for for all the stress I've endured. 

George F Sheffield 
Chickasaw, Alabama 



If I could hold down a job I would much rather do so then to not have enough money to 
get by on. My house notes always very late and that cost me more money My husband and I 
have horrible credit mostly due to non-payment and slow payment My husband has Hodgkins 
disease he is in remission he has been on his job for 20 years. If he comes out of remission, 
which is possible at anytime. I guess we will be homeless. 

Mayellia Moore 
Whistler, .\labama 



The process of Social Security disability determination is far too lengthy and complex I 
submitted an application in November 1995 and didn't have a hearing until February 12, 1996. .. 
A judge was sent from Columbus, SC to hear the case. However, I had endured a great deal of 
hardship before getting any relief .1 have yet to receive the final disposition. 

Juanita Byrd 
Chunchula, Alabama 



I filed for my Social Security disability in 1993 it went through finally, after going 
through the Administrative Law Judge Haberman in December 1995 Yes, it took that long for 
me to get it started. I feel that was too long a time. I needed that help badly, so I could get the 
medical attention, and medication I so desperately needed I thank God it finally went through 
I have suffered with each pain I cry from it. Having Dr and hospital bills coming to me from 
every direction and being told when I come to see the doctor I had to have money, I borrowed 
money for Doctors and medication I lost my home, I've went through some mighty bad times 
and I suffer from great pain every day There was no need for my disability to take years to get 
it. Medical records speak for themselves To be turned down so many times and going 
through the appeals and finally heanng -- and I needed the help then and there, but it took years, 
me sutfenng like I do with this pain. 

Rollie Mason 
Chickasaw. Alabama 



I have several complaints about the process, besides the waiting I waited a year and 2-3 
months for the first hearing Three. days before the hearing my lawyer wanted to postpone the 



hearing due to mental stress he was under. My wife and I decided we could not afford to have it 
put off any longer. We notified the lawyer and the Office of Hearings and Appeals that I would 
be representing myself During the hearing the Judge said he would like to reschedule my 
hearing because he would like to have a "vocational expert" present to evaluate my situation He 
also advised me that it would be for my best interest to take this time to find an attorney to 
represent me. While leaving the office a woman who was present at my hearing gave me a piece 
of paper with an attorney's name and phone number on it. Is Social Security hearings "set up" 
so you must have an attorney'' The handout clearly states you may represent yourself 
Rescheduling my hearing (second) took several months and I hired another lawyer. Not the 
lawyer the woman recommended. The "vocational expert" was present and after the 
presentation the Judge said he would make his decision within ten days. It has now been 78 days 
and counting. This has been a very trying experience. It is hard to live off one salary for a 
family of six. My children have even become discouraged. 

Teddy Boyington 
Bay Minette, Alabama 



My experience with the Social Security Administration in Mobile Alabama has been an 
expenence that I will never forget. It's taking me a little over two years to get the proper 
financial help for my great nephew Mark D. Lamar Moore. 



Annie Howeli 
Prichard, Alabama 



I filed for my disability Social Secunty on April 10, 1995 and was denied. My attorney 
filed for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on August 25, 1995 My attorney has 
repeatedly tried to get a hearing date set at the Social Security oflRce of Hearings and Appeals in 
the Mobile, Alabama office to no avail! They will not give him an answer about when a date 
might be given. I feel this is very poor treatment for people who have worked and paid in their 
money over the years and yet when they become disabled they can not receive the help they 
need 

Kathryn Morris 
Eight Mile, Alabama 



I filed for SSI in October of 1993 I was turned down. They said I wasn't eligible. I 
then got Mr Gil Laden to help refile for me He fought for me until September of 1995 We 
went in front of the judge on Sept. 6, 1995 The judge said he would let us know something 
within the next few weeks. I still had not heard from them until I contacted you, Mr. Callahan. 



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After that it wasn't but a couple weeks and they finally sent me the letter that I had been 
approved. I received my first check in March of 1996. 

Elaine Smith 
Robensdale, Alabama 



My husband is totally disabled with a broken back and receives Social Security and as 
well as a retirement check from his place of employment. At the time of my injury I was the 
bread winner and not on fixed income. .. When we needed extra money I would work over time 
to help pay for medicine or other bills that we had to pay After I was injured I did not have 
enough sick days or vacation time for more than a week when I stopped work We had just 
purchased a car and a truck and had house notes that had to be paid. I had disability insurance 
but it would not take effect until I had been disabled for three months. So I decided to call 
Social Security in September 1994 and see if I could get temporary help until I could go back to 
work. I employed a local lawyer with the help of my disability insurance company to represent 
me during the hearing. He told me not to be surprised if it took at least six months for the 
hearing because of the back log. Finally by the end of August 1995, I received a letter from 
Social Security approving my application and enclosing a check for the back pay .1 would like 
to say that no one should be put through an ordeal such as this When one is ill or injured 
enough to apply for Social Security this process only adds more stress to the applicant. Some 
days I was so depressed, knowing that I would never work as an OR nurse again, or be active in 
the community that I did not want to leave the bed. When I received the letters saying I could 
work and I knew that I couldn't even go to the grocery store to buy food I became even more 
depressed. ... My experience was the most grueling and degrading experience that I have ever 
had this side of an IRS audit. . The hearings should be timely and reviewed within two months 
from the time of application. In my case there were three months that we had to live in another 
county in order to reduce costs and pay bills to prevent bankruptcy. If I had not had disability 
insurance, my husband and I would have lost everything because of the "game"' that is played 
with the Social Security program. 

Carolyn Matthews 
Saraland. Alabama 



The original claim for disability was in 1983. ... We had applied for social security 
disability and were denied. Our right to convert our medical insurance to an individual plan was 
offered; however, the rate was S400 monthly. We had no other income, therefore, we were not 
able to have the insurance. In. 1986 I had open heart surgery with no insurance, we were forced 
into bankruptcy because of all the medical charges for my illness. Otis has had cancer. 
Lymphoma in 1993, Congestive Hean Failure in 1995 and he is still not approved for his 



17 



51 



disability. We have lived on income below poveny level since 1983. We would have had a 
much easier life, if we had been able to have what was and is due us: Otis' disability from social 
security 



Otis and Rachell Smith 
Spanish Fort, Alabama 



It was denied on September 8th 1995 In September I file a third claim to have a hearing 
before a trial judge At this time I learned it would take at least twelve months before my 
hearing. October 13th 1995, I received a letter stating my request. I have had no contact with 
SSI since. 

Gerald Wilson 
Mobile, Alabama 



I asked for a hearing on October 13, 1994 I still haven't had my hearing. I was told I 
should have my hearing in January or February It has come and gone and still no hearing, I 
have been waiting over two years for my disability payments to start that I need so badly to pay 
my bills. 

Joyce Counselman 
Coffeville, Alabama 



It took almost 2 years to get any money. Lucky I had some savings to get me through. 

William Byrd 
Mclnstosh, Alabama 



I am a 65 year old attorney I conduct a general practice, some involves representing and 
working with people who are attempting to establish Social Security or SSI claims. I have 
followed serveral claims to fruition, but they almost always take a long time, as much as four 
years. It is frustrating to not be able to pay bills, to have medical bill collectors threatening, to 
stand in danger of losmg your home, to beg rides trom friends and relatives, to take some menial 
job and not be able to handle it. and then get sneered at by the community as being too sorry to 
work. 

Robert F Ware, Jr. 
Millry, Alabama 



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I would like to say that Social Security does have a problem One problem is that I do 
not feel they are too stnct, but I do feel they are entirely too slow 

Rev Edward McMillian 
Bay Minette. Alabama 



I have been trying since Nov 16, 1993 to get my disability started but to no avail. 



Betty Lowry 

Bay Minette, Alabama 



Since 10/03/95 I have had no sources of income. My family and I have had to receive 
food stamp benefits and my gracious family have tried to help me in any way they can. This is a 
difficult and trial time in my life being that I am a single father with a daughter that I support 
soley and completely I'm sure that I am not the only case of this sort you have heard before, but 
maybe you can help myself or someone else whom is walking in my shoes. I would not wish 
these circumstances upon not even my worst enemy. 

Tommy H Taylor 
Mt. Vernon, Alabama 



In October, 1994, my husband was terminated from his job of 20 years Our health 
insurance was ceased because we could not pay S500 00 per month for health insurance; 
therefore, my husband had a nervous breakdown We lost everything we have. We then moved 
here to Wilmer, Alabama, into the house with his brother and wife I then had my Social 
Security file changed to Mobile. I finally got to go before the Administrative Law Judge Sept. 
14, 1995 Dec 1, 1995, I received notice that the Administrative Law Judge found in my favor 
and I was awarded my disability TRY LIVING LIKE I HAVE SINCE 1993 - IT IS HELL. 
DEPRESSING AND ANNOYING We now have no income but my disability of $621 00 See 
how anyone of you can live like this Something definitely needs to be done so other people 
don't suffer as we have. 

Linda Hurst 
Wilmer. .\labama 



In April, 1994, I made my first application for disability from Socail Security and was 
denied Two months later. I reapplied and again was refused Now it is April, 1996, and I'm 
still waiting. We had an appointment scheduled for April 9, 1996. for a hearing before the 
Honorable Judge Irwin Coleman. Jr for a review of my records and a ruling for disability 
However, because I was in the hospital, the hearing was postponed for another 3-4 weeks. It has 

19 



53 



been a long two years and I hope that this will help bring about a swift and speedy conclusion to 
not only my case, but the cases of others are waiting to hear fi'om the Office of Hearings and 
Appeals. 



Cynthia M. Robinson 
Foley, Alabama 



I filed for disability the first time on July 23, 1992. I was declined. I then refiled again 
in an appeal on Sept. 8, 1992. Finally, I received a court date with Administrative Law Judge 
William L. Ragland on Aug. 25, 1993 And this is his findings; that I was "disabled" with in the 
meaning of the Social Security Act, since June 8, 1992. I did not know until Jan. 3, 1994 how 
much I would receive or how much back pay I would get. But remember, we the taxpayers 
helped pay your way, so think about how it would feel if we decided you were "overpaid" and 
you didn't even know what your pay was based on. Or that you had to go to a selected doctor 
you've never seen, so he can determine your health and whether or not you're eligible to receive 
the Social Security pan of your disabililty. 

Marion Turner 
Wagarville, Alabama 



In the initial stage of filing for Social Security I encountered a case worker who told me 
that I would be denied on my first attempt. I took this to be just someone with an attitude. So I 
asked "How do you know without having seen my application?" Her reply was "Everybody gets 
denied the first try regardless of the qualifications." After three years and numerous meetings, 
filing papers and red tape I realize she was only offering a warning of what I was about to 
experience During the appeal process things become so complicated it requires an attorney to 
continue the steps required to get through the remaining portions of the system. At this point the 
process really bogs down The attorneys usually work on percentages which makes it beneficial 
to prolong the case. But. the one who needs immediate attention is left to survive by means of 
trial and error in achieving help through other programs. With little knowledge of programs 
willing to lend assistance it becomes expensive and difficult while suffering physical and 
finanicial obstacles never before imaginable. In addition the ridicule, insults and dehumanizing 
treatment received only adds to the physical and mental torment already being suffered. There is 
no pain medication for the hurt that is felt when you try to explain to a son in high school, who 
takes money he has earned and buys food rather than a class ring for graduation... or a 12 year old 
daughter asked what I said to the man at the door in an argument that made him shut off the 
electricity (for the third time) After loosing all my personal property I have been humbled to 
acceptance of a life with very little hope of personal achievement. But I would like my children 



:o 



54 



to have an opportunity to live a respectable childhood I ask only that I be allowed to give them 
the bare essentials until they become self-reliant. After three years of waiting they seem to be 
disappointed yet ^bmitted to living without things once taken for granted. 

Ronnie Taylor 
Semmes, Alabama 



After three years and many doctors I finally got a hearing and I was approved. Although 
I was approved in December. 1995, 1 did not receive a check until March of 1996 I'm thankful I 
had a little money saved and I had some helpfijl children or me and the 1 2 year old boy would 
have been out on the street. I hope you will see this is a big burden on married women with 
children or men too. 

George Taylor 
Irvington, Alabama 



You wanted to know how I felt about the Social Security Administration. Those people 
put my family and I through HELL for over a year. No my family had to experience some time 
that were hard. My wife and I almost came to a divorce at one time during this crisis. There 
were times where we didn't know how to pay the light bill. But there would be a church or 
community action would help. If not for those people I don't know how my family and I made it 
through Hell and back, without the help from these people. I can say it was a experience that I'll 
never forget... 

Tommy Dale Bryant, Sr. 
Bay Minette, Alabama 



I have been off for 2 years - no income. My papers have been at the OHA since 
December 1994, that is 17 months. I have sold everything we got in last 25 years. Stress, 
depression, uclers, mygrain headache, all from wait. My wife work as a waitress, 65-75 hours a 
week to pay some of the bills. I have mortgage house two times, borrow S2 1,000 in last two 
years to survive. The situation destroys families, it doesn't work. 

Jerry L. Hembree 
Citronelle. Alabama 

I applied October 1993 and went before Judge Coleman in Evergreen. Alabama, on Jan. 
22. 1996 I was awarded my S S. but here it is mid April and I still haven't received my check. I 
really think this is so unfair I am now 59 years old No job. the only income I have is S230 00 a 
month from S.S from my ex-husband for taking care of our child. But do they not realize the 
medicine and other expenses you have and clothing, living expenses, etc. How long do they 

21 



55 



have to wait to see if you are disable. I have been waiting approx. 28 months. I would just like 
to know why this takes so long. And why we the poor people should have to suffer for what 
reason, I don't know I would have to write a book on how angry I have been over the past 2 '/2 
years. 

Geraldine Schaefer 
Brewton, Alabama 



It's taken two more years before I could get a fair hearing about that time I lost all my 
fiimiture, car Everything I had to apply for Chapter 13 for help to keep from losing the rest of 
my personal belongings. Congressman I do not think is fair. With people like myself, work very 
hard and something happened to them, they have to wait so long to get help. 

Leonard C. Greene 
Mobile, Alabama 



This is the second time I have been before the Judge. It took 18 months just to get a 
court date (August 17, 1995). I just don't understand why it's taking so long. I'm so tired 
of suffering. I need to be under a doctor's care, but their is just no money and I'm unable to 
work. 

I have been told I must leave the apartment I have been sharing with my boyfriend, 
who has been my sole support, at a near date. I have no source of income and no family in 
Mobile I can turn to for assistance. I have furniture in my boyfriend's apartment and cannot 
go to live at the Salvation Army because I have no place to store it. 

I have medical debts of approximately $21,000.00 for which I am being hounded by 
collection agencies. This, coupled with my continuing bad health, has caused my boyfriend 
to turn against me. I am suffering extreme distress over this situation. 

I will soon be homeless with no money to provide myself with housing, food or 
medical care. 

Vickie James 
Biloxi, MS 



I appealed again to go before a Judge. I have been waiting for two years now. I still 
have not got a date for court. 

Judy Hutchinson 
Whatley, AL 



56 



I was told in early January, 1996, that Judge Joyner has made a decision on that, but 
as of yet I do not icnow anything. I have called several times asking about the decision. 
They tell me that it is in the writting component. 

Since my hearing with Judge Joyner, our income has drastically changed again. My 
husband has not received any Workman's Compensation since February 9, 1996. We have 
no income. 

Patricia Walker 
Bay Minette, AL 



I have not been able to work at all since Oct. of 94. I do not have any financial 
resourses of my own. I filed bankruptcy in 1994. 

If not for my church, friends & family, I would have been put out of my mobile 
home. I would not be able to buy medicine or pay my utilities, health insurance, or phone. 
My prescription drug bill alone comes to over S 1000.00 a month, not including my 
immoglobin infusions. 

Except for food stamps I have not received any aid from state or federal agencies 
(except FEMA). On Feb 27, 1996 I appeared before Judge Ragland for an official hearing 
of my case. That was six weeks ago today. I don't know even if I'm going to receive my 
disability because as far as I know Judge Ragland has not ruled on my case. 

Gail Mclnnish 
Monroeville, AL 



In June, 1991, I applied for Social Security Disability. I was denied three times and 
then I got an attorney. He appealed and had a hearing in Feb. 1992. I went through a 
tremendous amount of pain & depression. 

Betty Jemigan 
Summerdale, AL 



I requested a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge, in March 1993 they 
granted my request. In May, 1994. I went before the Judge and within 15 min. I was 
granted Social Security disability. I did not receive any money until October of 1994. 
Everytime we were asked for additional information, we did our part to make sure they got 
the information right away. When we called to check on the status they would always say 
they had not gotten the information or needed more. 

In the 3 years and 10 mo. it took me to get Social Security we had to use all our 
earnings (also use our IRA which we were penalized for). In the last 6 months had to 



23 



57 



borrow money. In April 1994 I had a heart attack and I will always say it was from the 
stress I had to endure trying to get Social Security. 

R. M. Williams, Jr. 
Theodore, AL 



When we went to court, the judge told us he would approve my husband's case, but 
when it got to his desk, he denied it. We are now in the process of appeal. These people do 
not seem to understand as the years go by my husband is much worse now than when he 
applied. Mostly because he has no medical insurance. Therefore, he doesn't see a doctor 
for his ailments. 

When my husband filed for Social Security, our home was paid for - now it has two 
mortgages on it. We are under a great strain and trying our best to hold on. Friends and 
relatives have been a blessing but they have families too. 



Mrs. Robert New, Sr. 
Jackson, AL 



I, Shirley C. Hudson, would like Congress to know it took me 18 months before I 
was approved for disability. When your doctor writes that you are not able to maintain any 
kind of job ever that should be enough. With all the delays I was given I stayed very 
depressed. It didn't make my condition any better. I owe a lot to Representative Callahan 
and the many prayers that were said for me. I feel what I was put through was pure hell for 
me. I hope something can be done so other people like me will not go through what I did. I 
had many nights I could not sleep because of what I went through. I hope you or none of 
your families go through the hell I did. If it was not for my family and prayers I would have 
lost my mind. 

Shirley C. Hudson 
Mobile, Alabama 



Here it is, three (3) years after filing for my Social Security Disability and I'm still 
waiting by the phone daily to hear something. I filed for a hearing October 7, 1994. ..and the 
hearing was not set until November 28, 1995, almost 14 months later. The hearing was 
rescheduled and was supposed to be set withing the next 60 days. It was set for March 8, 1996. 
Another evaluation was requested and was to be set up immediately, the results faxed to the 
judge and a decision made. The evaluation was set up and made March 28, 1996. I am still 
waiting for the determination of my life, and it is my life. 

Through the entire 3 years, I have been manipulated and ignored. This is my life these 
people are playing with, and it is so apparent that they do not care. 



58 



The majority of the people working in the Social Security System are by far the rudest, 
most dishonest, and manipulative people that I have run across in my entire 49 years on the 
earth, and I've worked in and for the Mobile County Jail System! 

To prove my point, my last appointment for evaluation by a Social Security doctor was 
on Thursday, March 28, 1996 at 8:30 a.m. My mother died Wednesday, March 27, 1996 at 8:05 
p.m., and I know better than to cancel the appointment because it would have been used for an 
excuse to drop my claim, or I would have had to wait another 6 months for an appointment. Sad. 
but very true. 

My appointments have been canceled without reason and stated they couldn't be set up 
again for several months. There is no excuse for this three (3) year wait, except for people who 
get paid regardless of their work production and it is very obvious that if the poor people who 
have applied keep being put off and their life put on permanent hold, they will give up and 
become yet another street person. This is truly sad. 

Cynthia Thomas 
Mobile, .\L 



From April, 1993, until July 20, 1995, when I finally got my hearing which lasted about 
15 minutes and then another 4 months before I got my first monthly check. In the meantime the 
mortgage bank was giving me a hard time about my late house payments 

But Congressman Callahan, it should not take 2 years or better to get a 15 minute hearing 
when your doctors wrote letter after letter that you are not able to work. 

Felton J Roberts 
Bay Minette, AL 



I understand the purpose of the session is to discuss the lengthy, agonizing process of 
determining social security disability eligibility for applicants Wherein I have not come to the 
point where I would personally have to apply for these benetlts. I have been very involved in 
assisting several relatives and acquaintances with their applications. I can truthfully state that I 
would never want to wear their shoes Many of these people suffer both their physical and 
mental defects already, then have to endure the emotional trauma which is secondary to the other 
problems. They are unable to work now, although they've worked and given the best of their 
years to being self-supportive and paying into a system which almost causes them to self- 
destruct. While the SS Act indicates an individual must be disabled and not working twelve 
consecutive months, many people try time and time again to go back to work, even against 
doctors advice, because they can't make it without an income Others just can't go back to work, 
then they lie around and wallow in grief; scared to death of losing their homes, cars, utilities 



25 



being disconnected; wives and/or husbands, and children eating poorly, and the social situation 
goes on and on. There are many heart-sickening scenarios that can be described. The Congress 
couldn't meet long enough to hear one calamity after another unfold before them. 

Yolanda W Wright 
Chunchula, AL 



I finally got my appeal hearing after about 2 years. When my day arrived and I got there 
my name was called and we went into the court chambers. The Judge started asking me things 
and explain things. I was asked to go back out fi^ont and they called a black lady in and heard 
her case first. To me that was discrimination but I let it go. They came out and the lawyer was 
telling her she would get fiill benefits. They called me back in and when I was finished they told 
me the Judge would go over my case and I would be notified by mail. Why did she get an 
answer that day and I had to wait months for an answer. 

Gracie Peek 
Chickasaw, AL 



This concerns a waiver of Medicare claim that dates back to December, 1991. ...I have 
appeared before Judge Smith not once as indicated by the file, but four times. 

This is a very involved case and if Judge Smith had gone thru the proper procedures this 
would have been settled long ago. 

As I have said I have had four notices for a hearing date and I have appeared for each one 
fully prepared to present my case. I arrived each time without an attorney because I am capable 
of representing myself The law clearly states that I may have a representative not that I must 
have one. 

All four times Judge Smith refiised to allow me to give any testimony or represent 
myself In the decision dated December 12, 1995, he said he based his decision on testimony 
given and there was none. Each session is recorded and if the records were checked, the records 
would hear me out, nothing was recorded. 

To give you some idea of how this went: The last hearing I appeared for was on January 
20, 1995 I again came alone because that was my privilege. Judge Smith saw I was again alone 
and he asked me two questions — How old are you and how much education do you have. When 
I answered he then told me to leave. I said first I wanted to read something and without giving 
him time to say anything I proceeded to read 20 CFR 404 508 and 404 509. (These are covered 
in paragraph 4. page 2 of Judge Smith's decision) I then told him if the decision he would make 
would be based on these two that I would hope he would make a favorable decision. By this 
time he was ftirious and he told me again to leave I was in the courtroom a total of 6 minutes. 

There is no question that I have not been given due process and that I have been harassed 
to the extent by Judge Smith No one should ever again have to go thru what I have with him 
again I will request that if my case has to be returned to an administrative law judge not Judge 
Smith but someone who will preside by the letter of the law and allow me my day in court. I am 

26 



totally exhausted with this and there is no excuse for it going on this long. 

Each time I appeared before Judge Smith I had a written statement, mainly for me to refer 
to. But I also made a copy for Judge Smith so he might refer to it while making his decision 
Each time I said I had the statement and he asked me to leave The 2nd and 3rd times I appeared 
I was in the courtroom less than 1 5 minutes. 

Dorothy (Dot) Owen 
Mobile, AL 



While I appreciate all the assistance you have given on my behalf I feel the Congress 
needs to know the length of time taken in getting through OHA due to the tremendous backlog of 
Social Security applicants. 

I am without any means of financial or medical support, and need assistance, not delays 
Please let my voice be heard m Washington before other Members of the Congress. 

Mary Williams 
Mobile, AL 



I filed for my disability benefits January 9, 1995 I had my hearing on February 2, 1996 
and was approved my disability They told me I would have to wait four to six months before I 
would hear from my claim, due to such a large backlog of cases at the Office of Hearings and 
Appeals. 

This is a long time to have to wait for my benefits to begin. 

Marcia Echols 
Jackson. AL 



I have had no income for over a year and now I have practically nothing left. I have sold 
my furniture, clothes, car. and practically everything else. I worked 30 years to pay the light bill, 
get medicine, and get food My daughter who was a senior in high school had to drop out 
because I couldn't afford to send her 

My doctor has started giving me a new medicine that cost S254 00 a month. I will not be 
able to buy it even though it seems to make me feel better 

I called to see if their was anyway I might could get a court date soon because I need to 
buy medicine. I was told the only way I could get a court date sooner was foreclosure or death. 

Margaret Hadley 
BavMinette. AL 36507 



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61 



It took me two years to get any financial help My mother took care of me and all my 
needs during this time I find it very unfair that people have to wait so long to receive any help. 

Cynthia Brown 
Atmore, AL 



June 28, 1994, 1 filed for a hearing with the Administrative Law Judge. The hearing was 
set for June 22, 1995 I then get his answer on December 13, 1995. This whole process took 
from 1st filing August 16, 1993 until December 13, 1995. 

Wilbur Brooks 
Frisco City, AL 



I filed for my Social Security disability February 27, 1995... 

I was denied my disability April 28, 1995. I ask for a reconsideration May 8, 1995, and 
was turned down June 16, 1995. I then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. 
I got a notice for my hearing for April 16, 1996. This is how long it has taken me. This makes it 
very hard on people when you have been used to a two paycheck incom.e. If I hadn't had my 
profit sharing from my job we would have lost everything we had and now it is gone. I also lost 
part of my profit sharing because of eady withdrawals. 

Betty Jean Nettles 
Franklin, AL 



My Social Security disability claim was initially turned down, but an appeal hearing won 
a bench decision from Judge James D. Smith in my favor on December 18, 1992. I realize that 
some time-consuming procedures are necessary, but a fijll six months elapsed before Social 
Security officially acknowledged my eligibility in a letter dated June 18, 1993. During this time 
I had continued to pursue the matter with the Social Security office in Mobile in order to find out 
the reason for the lengthy delay It was still several months later before I began to receive the 
actual SSI benefits checks promised to me. I feel that this was an unacceptably long delay for 
someone in my condition I believe that the district office could and should have done more to 
speed the stan of my disability payments, and that it was indeed negligent in the timely 
performance of its duties. My sympathy goes out to others in similar dire health circumstances 
who may have been forced by needless delays such as this to endure even greater hardships. 

Jan Morgan 
Jackson, AL 



28 



oc—no 



62 



My sons have kept me with food and essentials but they have families and my expenses 
are causing friction in the family 

My old home is hard to heat and so I've had to be cold lots of times trying to conserve 
expenses. This has been a cold hard winter 

I have waited for over five years for some assistance. My home will not be livable unless 
some repairs are made soon. The electric wiring is gone out on half of the house. I know it is a 
dangerous situation but I cannot fix it without some assistance. 



Mary F. Jackson 
Grand Bay, AL 



In December of 1993 I received a denial for the Request for Reconsideration telling me I 
could file for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge and this was done in January of 
1994. 

...my hearing was reheard in June. ..Had it not been for Mr. Laden I do not think I could 
have made it as the Judge made me feel very uncomfortable ~ we left the hearing and was told 
that Judge Micare would make a decision and inform Mr. Laden at a later date - I received a 
fully favorable decision dated October 25, 1995 

Gloria Brunson 
Eight Mile, AL 



Without the help of you for the last 18 months I would still be waiting. I had no income, 
I have a huge amount of medical and drug bills which I will never be able to pay, which I 
acquired during this time with no health insurance, and now Social Security says they have 
overpaid me by $2,500.00. 

When a peon has something bad happen to them they do not need all the hassle they get 
afterward. 

David Mashbum 
Mobile, AL 



...the SSA has procrastinated for so long on my disability claim as to put my family and I 
in dire financial crisis, thus lowering my mode of living arrangements. To slow down the SSA 
process in these past few years. I've learned the SSA has you submit and resubmit reports and 
claims almost exactly as the last ones I had to draft originally On February 23, 1996, 1 finally 
had my hearing before an Administrative Law Judge and several weeks later a fiilly favorable 
Notice of Decision was mailed to me. Here we are nearly 60 days later and still no payments for 
disability have been made... 

Thomas Geeck 
Bav Minette. .\L 



63 

Mr. Gekas. Mr. Burge, you're welcome to testify before this com- 
mittee, and you will have perhaps more than the 5 minutes, but 
not quite as much time as the gentleman from Alabama consumed. 

Mr. Burge. I don't believe I have quite as much to say as Mr. 
Callahan. 

Mr. Gekas. Excuse me, before we start I want to acknowledge 
the presence and attendance of the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. 
Chabot, a member of the subcommittee. 

Proceed, Mr. Burgess; I'm sorry. 

Mr. Burge. I'd like to thank you, sir, for taking the time to hear 
my story. 

Applying for Social Security benefits was something I did not 
want to do; I had no other choice. Due to compounding health prob- 
lems, I found myself in a position where I could no longer work. 
I was blinded in an accident in 1979. I eventually regained partial 
vision but, unfortunately, my eyes were irreversibly damaged. In 
October 1992, my overall health began to fail. I was blind in my 
left eye and I developed an ulcer on the cornea of my right eye; my 
vision deteriorated rapidly. I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and 
catalepsy. By January 1993, I couldn't drive a car; I couldn't climb 
a ladder, or even walk upstairs to tuck my sons in bed because I 
could go out at any time and not realize it, and I could fall and 
hurt myself— I have done this. I developed high blood pressure; I 
lost my job, and just wasn't able to go back to work. 

By July 1993, I decided to apply for disability benefits. In No- 
vember 1993, I received my first notice that my claim had been re- 
jected. I called the Social Security office in Mobile and I was told 
that, if I wanted to receive any benefits, I would have to get an at- 
torney. I hired an attorney and appealed the decision. In March 
1994, our attorney requested a hearing before an administrative 
law judge. My hearing before Judge Irwin Coleman was not until 
July 18, 1995. The hearing itself took less than 5 minutes. I was 
told my claim had been approved on the basis of my medical 
records. The fully-favorable decision was not signed until Septem- 
ber 29, 1995. I received my first check December 1, 1995. My de- 
pendents' checks began in June 1996. I still have not received my, 
**backpay," but my attorney was paid out of my money on February 
2, 1996. 

Due to the extreme length of time this has taken, my family has 
been emotionally and financially devastated. In the last three years 
we've lost our home, our car, our credit, personal possessions, and 
dignity. We've done without simple, basic necessities. Without the 
help of my mother, we would have been homeless. We accumulated 
over $20,000 in medical bills because we have no health coverage. 
My dependents still will not have any health coverage. 

I am a Vietnam-era veteran, and I am a proud patriot of Amer- 
ica. I believe that if a person is able to work, they should, but if 
they can't, it shouldn't be such a long process to get help. I also 
feel that the hardship this bureaucracy has indirectly caused to 
happen to my family is deplorable. I thank you, sir. 

[The prepared statement of John Burge follows:] 



64 
Prepared Statement of John Burge, Disability Applicant, Mobile, AL 



Applying for Social Security Disability benefits wasn't somi 
I had no other choice. Due to compouncung health problems, 1 
sition where I could no longer wore. I was blinded in an accic 



something I wanted to do. 
ms, I found myself in a po- 
sition where I could no longer woi^. I was blinded "in an accident in 1979. I eventu- 
ally regained partial vision but, unfortunately, my eyes were irreversibly damaged. 
In October of 1992, my overall health began to fail. I was blind in my left eye and 
I developed an ulcer on the cornea of my right eye. My vision deteriorated rapidly. 
I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and catalepsy. By January of 1993, I couldn't drive 
a car. I couldn't climb a ladder or even walk upstairs to tuck my sons in bed because 
I could "go out" at any time and not realize it and I could fall and hurt myself. I 
developed high blood pressure. I lost my job and just wasn't able to go back to work. 
By Jufy of 1993 I decided to apply for disability benefits. 

In November of 1993, I received my first notice that my claim had been rejected. 
I called the Social Security office in Mobile and I was told that if I wanted to receive 
any benefits I would have to get an attorney. I hired an attorney and appealed the 
decision. 

In March of 1994, our attorney requested a hearing before an administrative law 
iudge. My hearing before Judge Irwin W. Coleman was not until July 18, 1995. The 
nearing itself took less than live minutes. I was told my claim had been approved 
on the oasis of my medical records. The fully favorable decision was not signed until 
September 29, 1995. 

I received my first check December 1, 1995. My dependents' checks began in June, 
1996. I still have not received my "back pay" but my attorney was paid out of my 
money on February 2, 1996. 

Due to the extreme length of time this has taken, my family has been emotionally 
and financially devastated. In the last three years we've lost our home, our car, our 
credit, possessions and dignity. We've done without simple basic necessities. With- 
out the help of my mother, we would have been homeless. We accumulated over 
$20,000 in medical bills because we have no health insurance. My dependents still 
will not have health coverage. 

I am a Vietnam Era Veteran and I am a proud patriot of America. I believe that 
if a person is able to work they should, but if they can't, it shouldn't be such a long 
process to get help. I also feel that the hardship this bureaucracy has indirectly 
caused to happen to my family is deplorable. 

Mr. Gekas, We thank you, Mr. Burge. Just a quick question for 
you, based on the latter part of your testimony. You say in June 
1996 the dependents' benefits began; is that what you said? 

Mr. Burge. That's correct; yes, sir. 

Mr. Gekas. I have a few questions for Congressman Callahan, 
my friend from Alabama. One thing that struck me is when you 
said, Sonny, that vou would be worried, although you liked the idea 
of my trying to do something about the administrative law judge 
structure in the bill that we've introduced and which was approved 
by this subcommittee, you worry that the autonomy that you feel 
that it will grant will be more injurious than helpful, or at least 
that it won't be helpful, according to what I inferred from what you 
said. 

Mr. Callahan. No, sir, Mr. Gekas, that's not the case. 

Mr. Gekas. All right, good. 

Mr. Callahan. My mission today is to convey to you the prob- 
lems I have in Mobile and pray that, in the drafting and the re- 
drafting of the legislation you're proposing, it will, through your au- 
tonomy, at the same time eliminate some of the problem areas that 
we have in Mobile. Autonomy may be the best route; I have no 
idea. 

Mr. Gekas. All right. I have to tell you, one of the targets of the 
legislation is to do something about disciplining and structuring as- 
signments of judges — the whole panoply of things which you have 
outlined as having been troublesome in Mobile. We believe that in 
an ALJ corps structure the questions of accountability, discipline, 



65 

and adherence to the Administrative Procedure Act all will be more 
well-focused. I wanted you to know that. I thought that you were 
saying that perhaps the kind of independence that we envision for 
the administrative law judges would be hurtful, and I'm glad to see 
that's not the case. 

Mr. Callahan. No, I don't mean to imply that, Mr. Chairman. 
I'm here pleading with this committee, and certainly you three, at 
least, are more knowledgeable about the process than I'll ever be, 
and I applaud not only your positions, but your knowledge of the 
problems and your willingness to address this. If autonomy is the 
right way to go, well, then that's great with me; that's fine with 
me. You know, I have my own amateurish, nonprofessional — as you 
all are professional — views. I don't even know why we need lawyers 
to hear these cases, frankly. 

Mr. Gekas. I'll talk to you about that privately. [Laughter.] 

Mr. Callahan. Maybe we should have paralegals hearing these 
cases. Maybe administrative law judges; maybe another tier ought 
to be imposed. I don't know that it takes a mental giant. 

But my point is to bring to you problems that, hopefully, when 
you go through this process, these problems will be eliminated for- 
ever. That you have a check and balance where in a situation like 
Mobile, which is about the worst in our district, that there's some 
relief capability. And then, when you have a judge who is hearing 
22 cases in 24 months, that you just don't tell him or tell the Con- 
gress or anybody else, "We can't do anything about it; that's all 
he'll do." As long as you have the checks and balances, as long as 
you consider the problems of Mobile, I have no problem with your 
destination. I applaud your mission. I want to help you get there; 
I just want to make absolutely certain that the checks and balances 
are in your bill to eliminate possibilities of this in the future. 

Mr. Gekas. I understand. One other question before my first 5 
minutes runs out, and that is having to do with the quarterly re- 
ports. I'm not sure our subcommittee would be the proper venue for 
that, but what I will do — and with you if you want to cooperate in 
doing it — I know you do — is we will approach Congressman 
Running and together work out a worthwhile procedure if he be- 
lieves, as we both do, that it might be necessary to try to achieve 
a quarterly report on caseload, on backlog, et cetera. Is that what 
you were talking about? 

Mr. Callahan. I think that your committee ought to be afforded 
it, and I don't know why they would object — the figures are there — 
and I would like for your committee to see the progress that is 
hopefully going to be made. 

Mr. Gekas. Yes, but my idea is, though, that since 

Mr. Callahan. Maybe they could send it to the Ways and Means 
Subcommittee on Social Security, your subcommittee, and me. 

Mr. Gekas. Yes. That in part has to do with the operations of 
the Social Security Administration, which is more relevant to what 
Jim Running is doing than ourselves, but it's interrelated because 
the role of the administrative law judge under the Administrative 
Procedure Act also is a part of that. Maybe a triangular approach 
to this — ^your office, mine, and Jim's — would in fact give us a good 
start. 



66 

Mr. Callahan, I think that if they would afford the three of us — 
the two subcommittees and me, as the Congressman from that dis- 
trict — ^yes, I think that would be very acceptable. 

Mr. Gekas, We'll look at that. I yield to the gentleman from 
Rhode Island. 

Mr. Reed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

I again want to commend Mr. Callahan for his very compelling 
and persuasive testimony and also appreciate the fact that you 
would fight so vigorously, not only for your constituents, but also 
for all of our constituents because we all have the same situation 
that we confront in our home districts with people who, like Mr. 
Burge, need the assistance of their Government after serving their 
Government and supporting it for so long, and when they're denied 
that, that not only hurts the First District of Alabama, but also 
every other district in this country, and I thank you. 

I wonder, Mr. Callahan, do you feel — and I sense from the testi- 
mony that there's been some progress made and I don't think 
you're quite willing to say that we've fixed the problem — but I want 
to get a sense whether you feel that there's a better dialogue now 
with your office? 

Mr. Callahan. I think there definitely has been progress made 
and I don't mean to imply that I'm un appreciative of that. I think, 
however, we must recognize that a lot of the progress made still 
does not bring us up to the regional standard average. A lot of the 
progress has been made by transferring cases out of Mobile, by 
transferring judges into Mobile — temporary solutions. Now, is this 
improving the Mobile operation? If they still are below standard, 
they still need to do something or else we'd be right back where 
we were. But, yes, especially since I requested this hearing I've 
seen significant improvement. Still, we're on the 40-yard line, and 
I'm talking about my own 40-yard line, and we're trying to score 
a touchdown. We don't want to be last; we want to be number one, 
and that is my mission. We don't want Miami to be ahead of us; 
we don't want Charlotte to be ahead of us, or anybody else. We 
want to be number one. 

I'm not saying, "Give them their Social Security." I'm saying, 
"Give them their hearing in a timely fashion and make a decision." 

Mr. Reed. So that your position, I think, Mr. Callahan, is that 
there should be a commitment from the Social Security Adminis- 
tration to do what they have to do to get you at the national aver- 
age in terms of time for hearings and disposition of cases; that's 
the bare minimum. 

Mr. CallahA-N. That is my mission. 

Mr. Reed. And I think that is entirely not only acceptable, but 
it should be, I think, all of our missions, and I thank you, and 
thank you, Mr. Burge for your testimony. 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. 

Mr. Gekas. The Chair will indulge in a second round of questions 
for 5 minutes or less. Mr. Burge according to your testimony you 
applied for disability benefits first in July 1993 and you didn't hear 
about a disallowance until November 1993. Then you requested 
through your lawyer, as I recall, a hearing in front of an adminis- 
trative law judge; that request was in March 1994. And then in 



67 

July 1994 you were actually accorded the opportunity to appear for 
a hearing. Is that correct? 

Mr. BURGE. That is correct, sir. 

Mr. Gekas. Now, this is what strikes us here. You say it only 
took 5 minutes for that administrative law judge to see the merits 
of your claim and approve it. 

Mr. BuRGE. That is correct. Actually 

Mr. Gekas. So he did his job. In this instance, in that 5-minute 
portion of the whole time that you spent on this, he acknowledged 
your right to benefits and so found. But now, after that quick 5 
minutes in an easy-to-dispose-of kind of situation that apparently 
he found, the decision isn't signed until September 1995. Is that 
correct? 

Mr. BuRGE. That's correct. It took 79 days for him to sign his 
name to the paperwork. 

Mr. Gekas. Then the checks didn't start until December 1995. 
All of that seems to be an administrative jungle after the action of 
the administrative law judge. So it has to do with the administra- 
tion, not with the ALJ. Apparently, he did a good job, at least be- 
latedly; in 5 minutes he was able to see the merits of your claim. 
That's pretty good, but we see where the problem lies just in that 
little instance: in the preliminary stages and the finalization of the 
claim after the administrative law judge did his job there, in that 
case. 

That's all I have at the moment, and if you have no second round 
we'll proceed to the second panel. We thank you Congressman Cal- 
lahan and Mr. Burge. It has been a very illuminating set of testi- 
mony that you have brought to us. 

Mr. Callahan. Thank you. 

Mr. Burge. Thank you, sir. Thank you, members of the commit- 
tee, for your time. 

Mr. Gekas. We will now call to the witness table the Honorable 
Charles Boyer, Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Social Secu- 
rity Administration; the Honorable Henry G. Watkins, Regional 
Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administra- 
tion; the Honorable Frank M. De Bellis, Social Security Adminis- 
tration Administrative Law Judge in Mobile, and the Honorable 
Robert S. Habermann, also a Social Security Administration ALJ 
in Mobile. And we will proceed to invoke the 5-minute rule on each 
of the witnesses who will be called to testify as they were named, 
and as the nameplates suggest from our left to right; so, we will 
begin the testimony with Judge Boyer. 

STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES BOYER, CHIEF ADMINISTRA- 
TIVE LAW JUDGE, SOCLU. SECURITY ADMINISTRATION 

Judge Boyer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good morning, 
Mr. Gekas. Before we start, I want the panel to know that their 
written statements will be accepted for the record, and they can 
summarize, if they wish, or outline, or read any portions, of course, 
but the whole statement — if vou're cut short by the time require- 
ments — will be made part of the record without objection. 

Judge Boyer. Thank you, sir. My name is Charles Boyer and I've 
been an administrative law judge with the Office of Hearings and 
Appeals for about 22 years. I nave considerable experience as a 



hearing office chief and as a regional office chief, and became the 
Chief Administrative Law Judge of Social Security in October of 
last year. I wish to thank Mr. Callahan for his remarks and for 
bringing these concerns to the attention of the subcommittee. I'd 
like to assure him and you that we share a common goal of service 
to our claimants and to your constituents. You can rest assured 
that you have the continued cooperation of the Office of Hearings 
and Appeals and, certainly, my office. 

I am accompanied here today by Judge Watkins, who is our Re- 
gional Chief Judge in Atlanta, and by Judges Frank De Belli s and 
Robert Habermann from our Mobile hearing offiice. Before discuss- 
ing the Mobile hearing office itself, I think it's important to provide 
a general overview of the hearing process at SSA and the impact 
that dramatically increasing workloads have had on the organiza- 
tion as a whole. Since the early part of this decade, growing work- 
loads have affected the performance of every hearing office, and it's 
impossible to evaluate the performance of any single office without 
understanding the system as a whole. 

As vou know, Mr. Chairman, SSA has experienced unprece- 
dented increases in disability claims workloads in recent years. 
This fiscal year, we estimate that 2.5 million disability claims will 
be filed and forwarded to the State agencies. This is an increase 
of 41 percent over the fiscal year 1990. This increase in claims 
translated into an equally dramatic growth in requests for hearings 
before our administrative law judges. By 1995, requests for hear- 
ings had nearly doubled from 1990 when they reached 588,600. I'm 
pleased to tell you, Mr. Chairman, that the staff throughout OHA, 
the Office of Hearings and Appeals, and especially our judge corps, 
have responded to this unprecedented influx of cases by increasing 
productivity from an average of 37 cases per month, per judge in 
1992 to over 46 cases per month per judge in 1995, resulting in dis- 
positions of over 537,000 cases in 1995, an accomplishment that 
makes me very proud of our judges. This is nearly a 25-percent in- 
crease in these years, and I think that's something that any com- 
pany would be proud to report to their stockholders. 

However, despite this increased productivity, the rapid workload 
growth has caused delays in processing appeals timely. Currently, 
it takes more than 375 days on average to process a request for 
hearing, which is up 58 percent from 1993. Now this is certainly 
not the world-class service — which is Commissioner's Chater's No. 
1 priority — that we are seeking. You may recall from Associate 
Commissioner Rita Greier's testimony before this subcommittee a 
few weeks ago, SSA has responded by allocating significantly in- 
creased resources to our office during a time when budgets are 
being tightened elsewhere, including in SSA. We have hired over 
200 additional judges since 1993. We have brought the ALJ corps 
to over 1,000. The support staff in our hearing offices has grown 
by over 1,000 people as well since 1993. 

Increased resources, improved technology, and the dedication of 
our staff have provided gratifying results, although we recognize 
that we have many miles to go before we can provide the world- 
class service that we're seeking. We do believe that we have 
reached a significant turning-point. Our production nationwide is 
such that we are disposing of more cases than we are receiving, so 



69 

this will permit us to start reducing the number of cases pending 
in our offices, and that, in turn, will help us reduce the unaccept- 
able, lengthy processing time. 

So this has been a challenging decade, especially for our staff 
and especially for our judges, but they've responded to that chal- 
lenge, and I believe that the same applies to our hearing office in 
Mobile. The management information on the hearing office in Mo- 
bile does confirm that the performance over the last four years has 
been below the norm. The Mobile hearing office experienced the 
same influx of cases that the rest of the Nation did since 1994 — 
and I see that my 5 minutes has expired, but I beg your indulgence 
for another minute. 

Mr. Gekas. The Chair will yield an additional minute to the gen- 
tleman, hoping that he can wrap up. 

Judge BOYER. Thank you, sir. 

The Congressman has pointed out that the production in the Mo- 
bile hearing office has risen, showing great improvement over the 
last couple of years under the direction of the hearing office Chief, 
Judge De Bellis. We have worked in concert with our regional office 
and with the local hearing office to see that additional resources 
were received there. They have additional judges; they have addi- 
tional writers, and we have a new hearing office manager. And ef- 
fective last week we recruited a replacement, following Judge De 
BelHs's retirement from the hearing office Chief ALJ position, who 
we believe to be a considerable help to the office. 

I have tried to cooperate with Congressman Callahan's office in 
every respect. I regret the delays that have occurred in responding 
to requests for documents. I can only reassure him and the sub- 
committee that we have acted as promptly and as quickly as pos- 
sible in submitting documentation to him. Candidly, I must admit 
that since arriving here in October, nothing seems to move as fast 
as I would like for it to, but I can assure you all that we are re- 
sponding as quickly as possible. I can also assure him and this sub- 
committee that our judges are complying with time and attendance 
requirements, and that, once again, I am very proud of their per- 
formance. 

Thank you. 

[The prepared statement of Judge Boyer follows:] 



70 

Prepared Statement of Hon. Charles Boyer, CraEF Administrative Law 
Judge, Social Security Administration 

mr. chairman and members of the subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today on behalf of the Social Security 
Administration's (SSA) Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) to 
discuss the performance of our Mobile, Alabama hearing office. I 
am accompanied today by Judge Henry Watkins, the Regional Chief 
Judge for the Atlanta Region, and Judge Frank De Bellis from the 
Mobile hearing office. 

INTRODUCTION 

Before discussing the Mobile hearing office itself, I believe it 
is important to provide a general overview of the hearing process 
at SSA and the impact that dramatically increasing workloads have 
had on the organization as a whole. Since the early part of this 
decade, growing workloads have affected the performance of every 
hearing office, and it is impossible to evaluate the performance 
of any single office without understanding the system as a whole. 

WORKLOAD GROWTH IN' GENERAL 

As you know, Mr. Chairmian, SSA has experienced unprecedented 
increases in its Social Security and Supplemental Security Inco-e 
(SSI) disability claims workloads in recent years. This fiscal 
year, for example, we estim.ate that 2.5 million disability claims 
will be filed and forwarded to the State agencies for an initial 
disability determination, an increase of 41 percent over Fiscal 
Year (FY) 1990. 

The increase in claim.s filed at the initial level translated into 
equally dramiatic growth in requests for hearings before our 
Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) , and by FY 1995, requests for 
hearings had nearly doubled from FY 1990, reaching 588,600. I am 
pleased to tell you, Mr. Chairm.an, that staff throughout OHA, and 
especially our ALJ corps, responded to this unprecedented influx 
of cases by increasing productivity from an average of 37 cases 
per month per ALJ in FY 1992 to 46 cases per month in FY 1995. 
That is nearly a 25 percent increase in three years, something 
many private sector companies would be delighted to report to 
their stockhclders . 

Needless to say, however, despite increased productivity, such 
rapid workload growth has adversely affected SSA's ability tc 
process appeals timely. Currently, it takes more than 375 days, 
on average, tc process an ALJ hearing, a 58 percent increase from 
the average time in FY IriB. 

ADDRESSING THE WCR?:LCAr CHALLENGE 

This is net the world class service that Commissioner Chater has 
established as SSA's nur.ber one priority, and no one in SSA cr 
the Office cf Hearings and Appeals finds it acceptable. As you 



71 



may recall from Associate Commissioner Rita Geier's testimony 
before this Subcommittee a few weeks ago, SSA has responded in a 
number of ways. First, SSA has allocated significant increased 
resources to OHA during a time when budgets are being tightened 
everywhere, including in SSA. We have hired over two hundred 
additional AL-Js since FY 1553, bringing the ALJ corps to over 
1,000 judges. These ALJs require extensive training in the 
Social Security programs before they become fully productive, but 
they now have sufficient experience that their presence is having 
a positive effect. The support staff in our hearing offices have 
grown by over 1,000 people since 1553 as well. 

SSA has also invested in new and im.proved technology, including 
Local Area Networks or LANs in each hearing office to link the 
personal computers we have installed, as well as improved case 
tracking software. As workloads have increased, we have also 
tried to work smarter, establishing work teams to reassess 
processes and devise new strategies for hearing and deciding 
cases more quickly and efficiently. 

The result, Kr. Chairman, has been gratifying in many respects, 
although we have many miles to go before we provide the world 
class service that Commissioner Chater envisions. I am pleased 
to report that we have now reached what we believe is a 
significant turning point. Our production is such that we are 
disposing of more cases each month than we receive, permitting us 
to start reducing the number of cases pending in our offices, and 
that in turn will help us reduce our unacceptably lengthy 
processing time. However, I must be frank, Mr. Chairman, and 
point out that dramatically better processing times will not 
happen overnight. It will take some time, but we are on the 
riaht track. 



;a£i: 



Mr. Chairman, SSA did not only deal with the rise in disability 
case filings and appeals through increased resources. Under 
Com.missioner Chater' s leadership, SSA undertook a re-engineering 
initiative, looking from the bottom up at the entire disability 
ad:udicaticn process. The result is the "Disability Process 
Redesign," a plan which greatly strengthens the adjudication 
prccess from the moment a claimant enters a local office to file 
for disability benefits right through final adjudication cf the 
claim. Various aspects cf the Redesign are now being tested, and 
full imcleT^entaticn will occur in stages in the coming years. 
SSA expects the Redesign to cut hearing- level processing time in 
half by tne year 2C0C. 

In sum., Mr. Chairman, this has been and continues to be a 
challenging decade for all of our staff in OHA, especially our 
ALJs. They have clearly responded tc the challenge, however, and 
the sam.e aotlies to cur hearing office m Mobile. 



72 



PRODUCTIVITY IN THE MOBILE HEARING OFFICE 

Our management information on hearing office productivity over 
the last four fiscal years confirms that the Mobile hearing 
office's performance has been below the norm. In FY 1992, for 
example, the Mobile hearing office averaged 25 cases per month, 
32% below the national average of 37 per month. As the Mobile 
hearing office experienced the same influx of cases as the rest 
of the nation, the situation deteriorated and in FY 1994, the 
ALJs issued only 24 cases per month, 44% below the national 
average of 43 per month. As a result, public service declined, 
as the average time to process a case in the Mobile hearing 
office rose to over 400 days in FY 1994, 100 days above the 
national average. 

OHA has not, however, ignored this situation. To the contrary, 
with outside assistance, changes in management and systems, and 
increased effort on the part of the Mobile staff themselves, the 
picture today is a good deal brighter. For example, in FY 1955, 
average production in the Mobile hearing office rose to 34 cases 
per m.cnth and that improvement continues today. Thus far in FY 
1596, Mobile is averaging 39 cases per month, only 7 percent 
below the national average. All indicators are that productivity 
will continue to increase in the months to come 

ACTIONS TAKEN TO IMPROVE HEARING OFFICE PRODUCTIVITY 

Working in concert with Judge Watkins and his staff in the 
Atlanta Regional Office, we have taken a number of actions to 
address the workload and performance issues in the Mobile hearing 
office. First, we have increased staffing, adding two additional 
ALJs to bring their staffing level from 7 in FY 1992 to 9 today. 
Sir.iiariy, we have increased the number of decision writing staff 
from 7 in FY 1952 to 12 today. 

There have been changes in personnel in the office as well. 
Judge De Bellis, the former Hearing Office Chief Judge, stepped 
down at the end of last year, and we are now recruiting 
nationwide for a repiacem.ent . In February 1995, we hired a new 
hearing office manager, filling a vacancy that is critical to 
efficient operations. 

We have also moved aggressively to provide the hearing office 
with outside assistance from other hearing offices and from, other 
staffs. For example, in FY 1595 we transferred 600 cases to 
other offices fcr hearing and decision; thus far in FY 1996 we 
have transferred another 1,700 cases to ALJs in other offices. 
In FY 1555, we sent 1,4C0 cases to other staffs to have decisions 
drafted, and in FY 1596 to date, another 370 cases have been sent 
out for decision drafting. Similarly, other offices are now 
helping the Mobile office to "pull" or prepare cases to get the-, 
ready fcr hearing; in this fiscal year, 550 such cases have been 



73 



prepared by staffs outside the Mobile hearing office. 

All these initiatives have had a positive impact, Mr. Chairman. 
As I indicated previously, the number of cases pending per ALJ is 
now down below the national average and that fact, coupled with 
the improving productivity of the current ALJs in the office 
should enable Mobile to start reducing its processing times and 
providing better service to the public. 

MECHANISMS FOR ALJ DISCIPLINE AND REMOVAL 

One of the personnel actions we took in Mobile relates to the 
last subject you invited me to testify about, Mr. Chairman- - 
namely, mechanisms for ALJ discipline and removal. In December, 
Regional Chief Judge Watkins worked with one of the ALJs in the 
Mobile hearing office whose perform.ance had been utterly 
unacceptable. That ALJ ultimately retired. 

As you know, Mr. Chairman, while an agency may take some inform.al 
actions to discipline ALJs, they may not unilaterally remove, 
suspend, or reduce an ALJ in grade or pay. Rather, the agency 
may only propose such disciplinary actions to the Merit Systems 
Protection Board (MSPB) , and it is the MSPB which determines 
whether there is "good cause" for the proposed action after 
affording the ALJ an opportunity for a hearing on the record. 

THE MSPB PROCESS 

The MSPB process is both lengthy and resource intensive. The 
agency initiates an action against an ALJ by filing a complaint 
with the MSPB containing charges that describe in detail the 
facts that support the proposed disciplinary action. The MSPB 
assigns the complaint to its Chief ALJ. The ALJ who has been 
charged, called the respondent, has 35 days to file an answer to 
the complaint, denying, admitting or explaining each fact alleged 
in the com.plaint. The parties (the respondent ALJ and the 
agency) have an opportunity to engage in discovery, including 
written interrogatories, depositions, requests for production of 
documents, and requests for admissions of facts. 

Once discovery is complete, the MSPB ALJ schedules and holds a 
hearing during which the agency presents documentary and 
testir-.onial evidence in support of the charges. The respondent 
ALJ may designate a representative and is entitled to cross 
examine witnesses, present rebuttal evidence and evidence in 
support of affirmative defenses. The parties customarily have an 
opportunity to submit post-hearing briefs. 

The presiding MSPB ALJ issues a recommended decision regarding 
whether or not there is "good cause" to impose disciplinary 
action and the nature of that action. The parties may file 
exceptions to the recommended decision with the MSPB within 3 5 



74 



days- -and they may also file replies to exceptions within 25 days 
of the date of service. After receipt of the exceptions and any 
replies, the presiding ALJ closes the record and forwards the 
case to the Board itself. 

The Board considers the case on the evidentiary record and issues 
a final decision which rules on the issue of "good cause" and 
specifies the penalty, if any, to be imposed. If the Board finds 
that there is "good cause" to take a disciplinary action, the 
agency then (and only then) may impose the penalty prescribed by 
the Board. 

Since 1977, SSA has filed 35 actions with the MSPB and responded 
to five actions filed by ALJs . While cases in which a settlement 
agreement is reached may be resolved in less than one year, a 
case that goes through the full process generally takes two years 
from the time that the agency files the complaint. 

I would also like to point out, Mr. Chairm.an, the Social Security 
Administration believes that H.R. 1802 establishing an 
Independent Corps of ALJs would not improve this situation.. To 
the contrary, it would make it worse. The bill makes no changes 
to the existing MSPB process that I just described; rather, it 
requires a formal and lengthy internal complaint review process 
in the Independent Corps before referral to the MSPB, when 
warranted. The result will be more complexity and delay. 

OTHER D:SCIPLIN.A.RY ACTIONS 

For misconduct of a less egregious nature, the agency has the 
authority to take inform.al disciplinary actions to address 
conduct which does not merit the penalty (e.g., suspension or 
removal) which only the MSPB can authorize. We do this when 
there is a reasonable expectation that lesser disciplinary action 
will be sufficient to ameliorate the objectionable conduct. This 
has the advantage of conserving resources and addressing the 
issue quickly through a less formal process. Such progressive 
discipline includes counseling, training, written admonishments 
and official reprimands. If inform.al discipline of this kind 
does not resolve the m.isconduct, the agency then may file a 
com.plaint with the MSPB seeking a stronger penalty. The informal 
discipline previously imposed will then be taken into 
ccnsideraticr by the MSPB in determining the appropriate penalty. 



The last few years have been challenging for all our hearing 
offices. Workloads have skyrocketed to levels never before seer. 
or even imagined. I ami proud of the fact that staff throughout 
OKA have responded to this crisis with enthusiasm and dedication, 
and I am pleased to report that agency-wide, we are reducing 
backlogs and beginning to provide the public with better service 



76 



I am also pleased to report that the Mobile Hearing Office is on 
the road to improved performance. 

I would be happy to answer any questions that you and the members 
of the subcommittee may have. 



76 

Mr. Gekas. We turn to Judge Watkins. 

STATEMENT OF HON. HENRY G. WATKINS, REGIONAL CHIEF 
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINIS- 
TRATION, ATLANTA, GA 

Judge Watkins. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Reed, and coun- 
sel. You've indicated that my statement has been received into the 
record, so I'll just speak from it briefly. 

I'm pleased to be here to assist this subcommittee in your task 
of trying to review and maximize the efficiencies, as well as the 
justice, that the office in Mobile dispenses. As I indicated in my 
written testimony, I thoroughly reviewed Judge Boyer's written 
testimony and I'm in agreement with it, and I just wanted to add 
a few other things by way of focus. I was appointed Regional Chief 
Judge in the Atlanta region in November 1994. One of my prior- 
ities on assuming that position was to enhance the productivity 
and the efficiencies in the Mobile office. There are 31 offices in our 
region and I've devoted more time to the Mobile office, and more 
resources, than any one office in that region. 

I give some background as to OHA in my statement, and I com- 
mend that to your attention to explain; for example, when Mr. 
Burge was testifying he spoke about applying for disability and he 
talked about goin^ to the local Social Security office. Of course, all 
of that predates his request for a hearing before OHA. We acknowl- 
edge that we have a problem with backlog, but there has to be a 
distinction between the wait for a hearing and the request for a 
hearing before an administrative law judge, and I commend that 
to your attention. We have made several efforts to reduce the back- 
log in Mobile and, in fact, we've been quite successful. 

As Judge Boyer point out, in fiscal year 1994 the ALJ's in Mobile 
issued 24 cases a month; this was 44 percent below the national 
average of 43 cases per month. In fiscal year 1996, the Mobile 
ALJ's are averaging 39 cases per month and that's 7 percent under 
the national average. From fiscal year 1994 to fiscal year 1996, the 
Mobile AU's increased their production an additional 15 decisions 
per month, per judge. That's a 63-percent increase in production in 
a fairly abbreviated period. As I noted in the statement, judges are 
not in total control of their dockets, and we're working with the ele- 
ments that control how quickly a case goes to hearing and how 
quickly a decision is issued. 

Those segments of the legal community and of the general com- 
mimity include claimants, claimants' representatives, vocational 
experts, medical experts, as well as the support staff in the office 
and the management teams locally, regionally, and nationally, and 
all have made a concerted effort to work with the Mobile office. 
Speaking of working with that office, it's clear that some hearing 
offices have greater case receipts proportionately than others. As a 
result of that, in the short term we try to reallocate resources with- 
in the region, and also within the country, to try to equalize the 
workload. In Mobile, we have done more resource infusion into that 
office than any other office, by far, in this region. 

Mr. Gekas. Starting when? 

Judge Watkins. Starting in November 1994 when I arrived. 
From April 1995 to the present, as an example, 2,362 cases have 



77 

been transferred to other offices. What we're trying to do is to take 
a two-track approach — and we've started with that since day one — 
that is to enhance the efficiencies and the productivity in the Mo- 
bile office and at the same time bring in outside resources to help 
them with the backlog. One of the efforts that is mentioned in my 
statement as well as — I had a chance to briefly review the state- 
ment of the president of the ALJ Association — I asked the presi- 
dent of the ALJ Association to ask for volunteers to help the Mobile 
office out, and we got a number of volunteers coming in from all 
over the region and outside the region to assist in that effort. We 
were quite successful, because from June 1995, the backlog in Mo- 
bile has been reduced from 6,634 to 4,300; that's a 35-percent re- 
duction in the backlog. 

Now, one thing that we have to remember in all of this is that 
whenever we bring in judges or other resources from other offices, 
that's at the expense of those offices, and we have other congres- 
sional Members asking for reports and responses about their con- 
stituents and, of course, reasonably so. As a consequence, our re- 
source reallocation is an aid to balance the workload throughout 
the region and it can't be used to eliminate the backlog in a par- 
ticular office at the expense of claimants who are awaiting hearings 
in other offices. 

Sir, if I could have 1 additional minute? 

Mr. Gekas. The Chair grants you another minute or so. 

Judge Watkins. Thank you. 

With regard to claimed administrative law judge abuses in Mo- 
bile, when I took over as Regional Chief Judge, one of the first of- 
fices I visited was the Mobile office. I went to that office and I ex- 
plained to the judges and staff there that they were high-profile 
and that I was as concerned as they should be about the perception 
that they weren't performing as efficiently as they might. I person- 
ally undertook working with a iudge, whom I will not name and 
I will not discuss in any detail because of privacy concerns. I per- 
sonally worked with that individual and a satisfactory result was 
obtained. That judge retired and that retirement was totally out of 
the hands of our agency; it was an independent decision made by 
the Office of Personnel Management and I think the public was 
well-served by that. 

With regard to the judges in the Mobile office, I've spoken with 
those judges about any complaints. I've solicited actively because 
I've heard about these complaints kind of floating out there and 
asked if anyone had any complaints. I wrote a letter to every con- 
gressman in the eight-State region of region IV and to every sen- 
ator. I explained to them; I explained to every attorney, every 
member of the public: if anyone had any complaints, any observa- 
tion of deficiencies of any of our employees, please bring them to 
my attention and I would promptly investigate it. Every claim of 
ALJ or employee abuse, I have investigated. Unhappily, a lot of 
these things are floating out there in vague form and when you 
start to press for detail the people who press these claims back off; 
I do understand. And I examined the record of the Mobile office 
and discovered that many of the complaints that were lodged 
against the judges there were lodged between 1990 and about 1992, 
and they stopped at that point tor some reason. There is nothing 



■3A_nt;'3 r\ 



78 

else documented after that date. During this period, there was 
some correspondence between the management team and the re- 
gional office addressing concerns. Since then, I have nothing in 
writing from anybody complaining about the judges in that office 
that has gone unaddressed. If there is a complaint, I will address 
it personally and forcefully with the judges and with the staff in 
that office and all others. 

And. finally, sir, in closing, I'd just like to say that I do appre- 
ciate that the public should be fairly and professionally served, and 
while I look closely and carefully to ensure that our employees are 
doing their job, at the same time I have to staunchly defend them 
against rumor and gossip that's totally unsubstantiated. If there 
are facts, if there are allegations, I will conduct the investigation; 
so, I need at least an allegation; I need at least a name, a date, 
and I will pursue it. So, in those cases that are simply alleged, I 
will pursue; I will issue warnings. But if there's nothing for me to 
investigate, it's difficult for me to do so. I have actively and vigor- 
ously proceeded against judges and other employees who have not 
comported with their statutory and regulatory duties. In the Mobile 
office, however, there is a stark absence of any documentation 
about an ALJ engaged in misconduct, and if there is, I will act on 
it expeditiously and forcefully. 

Sir, as I said, my statement is in the record and I appreciate that 
you've allowed me to exceed my time. I stand ready to answer any 
questions that you and your committee may have. 

Mr. Gekas. I was going to say that perhaps some of your other 
concerns will be a part of the Q and A tnat will follow. 

Judge Watkins. OK. 

[The prepared statement of Judge Watkins follows:! 



79 

Prepared Statement of Hon. Henry G. Watkins, Regional Chief 
Administrative Law Judge, Social Security Administration, Atlanta, GA 



MR. CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF TH E SUBCOMMITTEE: 

Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today. I am honored 
to assist this subcommittee in your review of the performance and 
oversight of Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) generally and of 
the Mobile, Alabama Office of Hearings and Appeals ALJs 
specifically. As a preliminary matter let me note that I have 
thoroughly reviewed Chief Judge Charles Boyer's written 
testimony, and I'm happy, to report that I am in complete 
agreement with it. As background, I will discuss the history of 
ALJ workload and performance. But I will focus on what has 
happened in the Atlanta Region of OHA since November 1994, the 
date of my appointment as Regional Chief Judge. 

BACKGROUND 

Any meaningful discussion of the performance of ALJs in the 
Social Security Administration's (SSA) Office of Hearings and 
Appeals (OHA) requires a basic understanding of the overall 
system of which OHA is a part. The vast majority of cases 
decided by OHA Administrative Law Judges involve claims for 
disability benefits. Thus, my testimony primarily addresses only 
these disability cases. 

When a person believes that he or she is entitled to Social 
Security disability benefits their first point of contact is the 
Social Security field office. The claim is filed with the field 
office. The field office will typically review the claim to 
determine whether the claimant meets the technical requirements 
for filing a disability claim. If these requirements are not met 
the field office will issue a technical denial. If the technical 
requirements are met the claim is referred to a State agency that 
the Social Security Administration authorizes to make disability 
determinations. These State agencies are usually called 
Disability Determination Services (DDSs) . The DDS reviews the 
case and if it concludes that a claimant is disabled it will send 
the file to the field office to certify payment of disability 
benefits. If its initial determination is that the claimant is 
not disabled, the claimant may request a reconsideration 
determination. The DDS may then decide, based on re-analysis or 
new evidence, that the claimant is disabled. 

Significantly, OHA has no jurisdiction or control of the 
procedure described above. It is only when a claimant has been 
found not to be disabled by the DDS adjudicators that OHA may 
become involved. A claimant who disagrees with the 
reconsideration determination may file a request for hearing 
before an Administrative Law Judge. Also, it warrants' mention 
that not all requests for hearings result in hearings before 
ALJs. Under new agency procedures three categories of OHA 
employees -- Senior Attorneys, staff attorneys and paralegals -- 
are currently empowered to authorize benefit payments in certain 



80 



limited cases. However, these non-Administrative Law Judge 
adjudications are permitted only where the record evidence 
supports granting all the relief sought by a claimant (disability 
benefits) without a hearing. Therefore, these non-ALJ 
adjudications, while significant, can in no way be considered a 
possible substitute to ALJ adjudications. 



SSA INITIATIVES TO REDUCE THE BACKLOG 



In light of the foregoing it is clear that the entire time a 
claimant has sought disability benefits is not time the case is 
before OHA. Having said that, it is true that in recent years a 
tremendous influx of new disability claims has resulted in a 
backlog that OHA is only now beginning to successfully address. 
As Judge Boyer's statement notes, requests for hearings 
approached 600, OCO in fiscal year 1995, almost double such 
requests filed in fiscal year 1990. But with added resources, 
new technologies, and innovative procedures we have begun to 
reduce the case backlog and provide faster service to the public. 
Adding to our positive trend of adjudications is the fact that 
our productivity per employee has significantly increased. This 
is a result of simple hard work. 

The challenge of increased productivity is a balancing act for 
all employees, but especially for judges. We must find 
innovative ways to streamline the system, and at the same time, 
continue to be guided by basic precepts of fairness. We must 
treat each claimant as important and yet be mindful that there 
are many other claimants awaiting a hearing before an ALJ. Thus, 
the increased productivity of ALJs, including the Mobile ALJs is 
all the more impressive. 

MOBILE HEARING OFFICE PRODUCTIVITY 

As noted I became Regional Chief Judge following the completion 
of FY 1994. Mobile ALJs in FY 1994 averaged issuing 24 cases per 
month. This was 44% below the national average of 43 cases per 
month. In FY 1996 the Mobile ALJs are averaging 39 cases per 
m.cnth, 7% below the national average. From FY 1994 to the FY 
1996 Mobile ALJs have increased their production an additional 15 
decisions per month per judge --a 63% increase in production in 
a fairly abbreviated period. 

I hasten to add that ALJs are not in complete control of the 
num±3er of cases they hear and decide. A sufficient number of 
cases must be prepared by the support staff with cooperation from 
claim.ants' attorneys/representatives, medical consultants, and 
claimants them.selves. Case development in preparation for 
hearing is labor intensive and requires a concerted effort from 
hearing office support staff and from OHA management at every 
level. Further, once a case is heard and an ALJ makes a decision 
there has been a problem, of getting sufficient decision drafting 



81 



output for ALJ's to timely issue the decisions. In Mobile case 
preparation and development as well as decision writing after the 
hearing, have shown considerable improvement. Thus, the ALJs in 
that office are now able to hear and decide more cases. This 
improvement in case preparation/ development and writing 
assistance has resulted from a focused effort by Mobile hearing 
office management, as well as supportive efforts from the 
Regional and national Chief Judges' offices. I fully expect the 
improvement in Mobile to continue. 

RESOURCE INFUSION INTO MOBILE HEARING OFFICE 

Some hearing offices have proportionately fewer case receipts 
than others. If this pattern persists over the long term the 
Agency considers a permanent restructuring of the staffing levels 
of the offices to reflect the variation in case receipts. But to 
address disproportionate receipts to staffing in the shorter 
term, we at the regional and national levels temporarily 
reallocate personnel (including ALJs) and resources to assist 
those offices with greater receipts. As an example, the Mobile 
hearing office has been the greatest recipient of reallocated 
personnel and resources in the Atlanta Region. Offices such as 
the Charleston, South Carolina hearing office, have had some of 
the Mobile cases transferred to them. When this happens these 
other offices get credit for hearing and deciding the transferred 
cases. Though the Mobile office doesn't get credit for these 
cases, in fact the Mobile backlog is directly reduced by such 
efforts . 

One of the largest single resource reallocations was made in 1995 
to benefit the Mobile hearing office. Indeed, from April 1995 to 
present 2,362 cases have been transferred to other offices. In 
these cases there have been prompt hearings scheduled with a view 
toward promptly issuing the decisions. As one example of the 
extraordinary efforts to assist the Mobile hearing office, in 
August of 1995 I sent a request to ALJs through the President of 
the ALJ Association. That request sought judges who would 
volunteer to assist with the Mobile backlog. This resulted in 14 
ALJs from other hearing offices assisting the Mobile office. 
They took dockets of Mobile cases, augmenting that office's 
efforts to reduce the backlog. From June of 1995 the number of 
Mobile office cases awaiting hearing has been reduced 35% -- from 
6, 634 to 4 ,300. 

It must be remembered that when judges or other resources are 
taken from other offices to assist the receiving office, the 
lending office has pending cases to be heard and decided. 
Likewise those lending offices face questions from Congress 
members on behalf of their constituents. Thus, resource 
reallocation is an aid to balance the workload throughout the 
region. It cannot be used to eliminate the backlog in a 



particular office at the expense of claimants awaiting hearings 
in other offices. 

CLAIMED AL J ABUSES 

With remarkably few exceptions I have been pleased with the work 
ethic and dedication of the Atlanta Region OHA employees. From 
my first month as Regional Chief Judge I made clear that all 
employees were expected to comply fully with all agency and 
regional policies. This includes those relating to time and 
attendance, courtesy to the public and co-workers, and ethical 
requirements. I personally oversee claims of ALJ abuses. 
Moreover, while I have great confidence in the vast majority of 
ALJs and other employees in the Atlanta Region I have encouraged 
members of the public, claimants. Congress members or anyone else 
to point out any perceived deficiencies in the performance or 
conduct of OHA employees. In this connection, on my appointment 
as Regional Chief Judge I sent a personal letter to each U.S. 
Congress member in my eight-State region introducing myself and 
inviting each to contact me personally on any problems which 
could not be handled locally. I am proud to say that my regional 
office staff has satisfactorily responded to virtually all 
congressional and other inquiries. 

With regard to claimed ALJ abuses I have told all who would 
listen that I would investigate any such claims if provided any 
reasonable factual particulars. Very few have been provided. 
When I look into the occasional claims that ALJs abuse time and 
attendance requirements those making such claims typically shrug 
and respond that they had no personal knowledge but they had 
heard stories . In the event there might have been anything to 
these undocumented claims I strongly restated to all judges and 
other employees that if such a claim has any basis in fact their 
biggest problem would be in dealing with me. On the other hand, 
I will defend staunchly every employee in this region whose 
claimed wrongdoing is based on nothing more than mere rumor or 
gossip. Fairness and due process extend to Federal employees 
just as it does to the claimants who appear before us. 

It has been suggested that at some time in the past some ALJs may 
have abused time and attendance and other agency requirements. 
But if such alleged abuses cannot now be documented this suggests 
1) that they did not exist in the first place, or 2) that they 
have been corrected --so mechanisms exist to address them. 
Given that there are no unaddressed specific claims of ALJ abuse 
one may reasonably conclude that any current claims of such 
abuses are largely apocryphal. 

COMPLAINTS ABOUT A PARTICULAR MOBILE ALJ 

On being appointed Regional Chief Judge in November of 1994 there 
were pending complaints of a Mobile ALJ whose productivity was 



embarrassingly low. It was suggested by some that I seek to 
transfer that ALJ to an office in another State. The performance 
of this judge was the basis for the preponderance of the 
complaints about the Mobile office. Due to privacy concerns I 
cannot address the particulars of that judge's case. I can say 
that this judge separated from government service in December 
1995. Even after his departure his production was still being 
cited as an ongoing problem, ignoring the fact that he was no 
longer with the Agency. Let me assure you that this situation 
was handled with all due concern for the public interest. It has 
been intimated that this judge got a golden parachute. There is 
no basis for such a suggestion. First, the result achieved was 
far preferable to transferring the judge from the Mobile area to 
another office. Second, any decision in this matter was made 
independently by the Office of Personnel Management based on 
objective medical and other evidence. 

CONCLUSION 

In closing, on behalf of all OHA personnel in the Atlanta Region, 
I state unequivocally that our goal is to serve the public 
fairly, efficiently, and courteously. We are working diligently 
to reduce the backlog, and at the same time we are giving each 
claimant individualized and personal attention. We will continue 
to meet this daunting challenge with energy, imagination, and 
compassion. I appreciate your concern for the problems the 
agency faces in providing world class service. However, as the 
record shows we have made, and continue to make, significant 
strides toward that goal. I would be happy to answer any 
questions . 



84 

Mr. Gekas. Judge De Bellis. 

STATEMENT OF HON. FRANK M. DE BELLIS, ADMINISTRATIVE 
LAW JUDGE, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, MOBILE, AL 

Judge De Bellis. Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, 
good morning, and thank you for the opportunity of appearing be- 
fore you. 

My name is Frank De Bellis. I was appointed as a Federal ad- 
ministrative law judge in August 1990. I served in the Social Secu- 
rity Administration's Montgomery, AL, and Bronx, NY, Offices of 
Hearings and Appeals prior to coming to Mobile in 1993, and I was 
the hearing office Chief Administrative Law Judge through Novem- 
ber 1995. 

You've heard the perspective from Judge Boyer from a national 
scale. You've heard the perspective from Judge Watkins on a re- 
gional scale. My function here is to tell you some of my experiences 
for the 2^2 years that I was the hearing office chief. I also want 
to thank Congressman Callahan for the kind remarks that he's 
made about my assistance with his office. 

I want to emphasize that the focus of this inquiry is the perform- 
ance of the administrative law judges in the Mobile office and re- 
lated matters. I would also like to emphasize that the performance 
of the administrative law judges does not start at the beginning of 
the process, when the request for hearing is received, nor does it 
end when the decision is issued. It begins when a work file has 
been produced by a legal assistant for review, scheduling, hearing, 
and decision by the administrative law judge. It ends when he or 
she has made that decision and he or she turns it over to a staff 
of decision writers. The delay between the receipt of the request for 
hearing and the time that the judge receives it, I think, is unfairly 
charged to the judge. It's fairly charged to the office and to the ad- 
ministration, but not to the judge. Similarly, the delay that occurs 
between the time that he or she has decided the case and the time 
that the decision is actually issued — again — is unfairly charged to 
the administrative law judge, but fairly charged to the administra- 
tion. 

Judge Watkins's statement addresses in detail all the factors 
that determine the office output, and he makes the point that the 
judges do not control the process, which confirms what I am saying, 
at least in part. My statement addresses a number of specific and, 
perhaps, unique problems that I encountered from my arrival at 
the Mobile office. Since I furnished my statement to the committee, 
I've had the opportunity to make an analysis of certain compara- 
tive statistics that relate to the Mobile office in particular, and to 
the region as a whole, because we are compared. Why is Mobile's 
productivity so disparate from that of the region and so disparate 
from the Nation as a whole? While I haven't been able to analyze 
anything on the national basis, I have been able to make a statis- 
tical analysis of allocation of staff to the Mobile office as compared 
to the average allocation of staff in the region. In particular, what 
we now refer to as legal assistants — they were called the hearing 
assistants until a short time ago — and decision writers, who are at 
the beginning portion of the process and the ending portion of the 



85 

process respectively, I respectfully urge are not within the control 
of the administrative law judges. 

Mr. Gekas. Without objection, we will accept that analysis for 
the record. 

Judge De Bellis. Thank you very much. 

[The information follows:] 



MOBILE OHA STATISTICAL COMPARISON ^ 



PRODDCTIVITY 

Case Receipts 

Cases Disposed 

Decisions Drafted 

Cases Made Ready for 
Review/Hearing 

Hearings Scheduled 

Hearings Held 

Final Decisions Typed 



FY 1993 


nr 1994 


FY 1995 


mm^ 


4000 


4814 


4493 


+12.33 


2171 


2660 


4116* 


♦89.59 


1639 


2332 


2959 


+80.54 


2861 


3136 


4417 


+54.39 


2950 


3565 


4115 


♦39.49 


2158 


2673 


2864 


+32.72 


2106 


2580 


4059* 


♦92.74 



RESOURCES AVAILABLE 

Administrative Law Judges 

Decision Writers 

Legal Assistants 

Hearing & Office 
Automation Clerks 

Overtime (Hours) 



6.79 


9.10 


10.00 


+47.28 


6.20 


8.36 


9.59** 


+54.68 


7.92 


7.92 


9.68 


+22.22 


11.50 


15.75 


18.03 


+56.78 


.929.30 


2389.30 


3174.70 


+64.54 



Includes decisions drafted "Out of Town" and "Action 7" staffs and 
Senior Attorneys . 

Represents total Decisions Writers available (10.72), less those 
assigned to "Action 7" and/or Senior Attorney reviews from 06/01/95 
(1.13) . 



The Mobile Hearing Office operated without a Hearing Office Manager from 
4/4/94 - 2/19/95. 



86 

Judge De Bellis. The analysis contains the statistical informa- 
tion that leads to a conclusion that I will address in my remarks. 

During that 2V2 years, the Mobile office had a number of prob- 
lems that exacerbated the conditions that were referred to by Con- 
gressman Callahan. They have been identified in my statement, 
and I will veiy quickly refer to them. The office was without a 
hearing office Chief Administrative Law Judge from January 1992 
through May 1993. I arrived on June 1, 1993. In addition, it was 
without a hearing office manager, which is the critical managerial 
position in every hearing office throughout the country. It was 
without a hearing office manager from April 1994 — and, effectively, 
a lot longer than that — until April 1995. That's a documented one 
year that ended when the current hearing office manager was ap- 
pointed and actually reported for duty. 

During my experience and to date, there were and are no super- 
visory clerical personnel between the hearing office manager — Mr. 
Chairman, may I have the additional time? 

Mr. Gekas. Yes, we extend to you another large minute. 

Judge De Bellis. Thank you very much. It may take me a little 
bit more than 1 minute. 

Let me repeat that during that tenure and to date, there were 
and are no supervisory clerical personnel between the hearing of- 
fice manager and the actual operating clerical employees in the 
hearing clerk and typing units, which are critical. In August, at the 
very end of fiscal year 1993, the Mobile office was relocated. It was 
relocated from one site to another site. I don't have to explain to 
you what happens when there's an office relocation; there were dis- 
ruptions. Without the office manager that I referred to, I had to 
deal with all of the ongoing problems that develop as a result of 
a change in facility. This was a new facility, by the way, with all 
the problems that come with that, including the cooling system, the 
heating system, the allocation of space, and the securitv concerns 
that have to be dealt with. This became the function of the hearing 
office chief; there was no hearing office manager. 

I learned very quickly that the Mobile clerical staff had never ad- 
justed to an operational change, which is referred to as the "unit" 
system — ^you'll hear more about it, I'm sure, as your inquiry pro- 
gresses — a change from what was called the "unit" system to a 
reconfigured" system. I don't prefer one over the other. All that I 
am suggesting to the committee is that there was a major oper- 
ational change which converted control by judges over their as- 
signed staff, consisting of a hearing assistant, a hearing clerk, pos- 
sibly a typist, and the decision writer — this changed to, in effect, 
a "pool" system. Again, I have no preferences. It makes no dif- 
ference to me as to now the operation is performed. However, what 
happened, as far as I could determine, is that there was no train- 
ing that followed this rather drastic change in the job requirements 
of the hearing clerks and the typing functions. 

During this 2V2-year period, more than a 50-percent increase in 
clerical support staff was provided. Now the help comes possibly 
after the problem has arisen, but there was a 50-percent increase 
in clerical staff during that period of time, which, incidentally, had 
to be trained without an office manager. Over a period of approxi- 
mately 6 months, from July 25, 1994, through February 1, 1995 — 



87 

that's the first and the last — there were 24 separate union griev- 
ances, demands, reauests for management action and complaints, 
all of which required management attention in responding and set- 
ting up opportunities for oral presentations to inquire into their 
merits. Some of them had merit; I'm not questioning whether they 
did or did not have merit, but these are some of the experiences. 

As to the Mobile statistics — ^reference was made to an ALJ, as to 
whom I believe privacy requires, I identify no further than to ac- 
knowledge as an ALJ; he is included in our statistics. He's included 
as a tenth ALJ. All of these statistics are divided by 10 to arrive 
at the "per ALJ" performance. I suggest to the committee that it 
should have been nine, because there was no input by that ALJ 
into the numerator of the equation. We have a number in the de- 
nominator, no activity in the numerator. For what it's worth, I 
think it negatively impacted on what we are referring to as the 
performance of the ALJ's as a whole in the Mobile office. 

The last item that I've reflected in my statement concerns what 
are referred to as "numerics." Performance evaluations are critical 
in any management operation. Within the OHA framework, you 
cannot evaluate an employee on the basis of how many cases he 
has done, how many decisions he has written. I don't know if it 
really requires any elaboration to tell you that this may very well 
be a shortage of a managerial tool. As previously mentioned, the 
lack of control that the ALJ's have over the flow of cases was dis- 
cussed by Judge Watkins. His statement completely covered that. 

In addition, there was a statement submitted on April 19, 1996, 
by Judge Ronald G. Bemoski, who very effectively described this 
situation as a, "system that has left the judge with all the respon- 
sibility for the case, but with no authority to accomplish the work 
effort. ' I would like to add to that point that the ratio of hearing 
assistants and decision writers, shown in the document that the 
committee just accepted, the ratio of hearing assistants and deci- 
sion writers to the ALJ's in the years 1993, 1994, and 1995 was 
considerably lower in the Mobile office than the average of those 
ratios in the entire region IV. 

\yhat do I conclude from that? Had Mobile received the same 
ratio of hearing assistants and decision writer resources, I believe 
that we would not be sitting here today. I believe that if that ratio 
of resources to ALJ's had oeen the same, that some 3,700 addi- 
tional cases would have been available for ALJ's to review, sched- 
ule, hear, and decide, and, in addition, that more than 750 addi- 
tional decisions would have been drafted by the decision writers 
and issued. Which brings us to today: the Mobile office has shown 
tremendous improvement with the infusion of resources that have 
been described by Judge Watkins. There's no doubt about that. 

If the committee will look at the statistical comparison that I 
have attached to my statement, you can see very clearly that we 
are moving in the right direction and that we have been moving 
in the right direction, certainly from February 1994 when I was 
asked to produce an improvement plan. It was produced and it was 
provided to the regional office; they have it. We have been following 
it, and the results are manifest. 

Once again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to ap- 
pear at this hearing. 



88 

Mr. Gekas. That was a large minute, but it was fruitful. 
Judge De Bellis. I hope it wasn't disappointing. 
Mr. Gekas. No, it was valuable. 
[The prepared statement of Judge De Bellis follows:] 

Prepared Statement of Hon. Frank M. De Bellis, Administrative Law Judge, 
SocLVL Security Administration, Mobile, AL 



Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee : 

This statement supplements the one furnished to the Subcommittee, 
along with my biography, on April 13, 1996. 

When I stepped down as Mobile Hearing Office Chief Administrative 
Law Judge (HOCALJ) , I provided to Region IV Chief ALJ Henry G. 
Watkins a comparative statement of Mobile office productivity and 
resources for the fiscal years 1993, 1994, and 1995. A copy of 
that statement is attached hereto. 

To the information conveyed by the statistical compilation, I can 
add that problems reflecting in some ways on the issue identified 
in Congressman Hyde's letter of April 3, 1996 were created or 
exacerbated by the following: 

1. The absence of a HOCALJ in the Mobile office from January, 

1992 through May, 1993; 

2. The absence of a Hearing Office Manager from the Mobile 
office, officially from April, 1994 (and effectively much 
earlier) through February (but effectively April), 1995; 

3. The absence of supervisory clerical personnel in the Mobile 
office, at least from June, 1993 (and to date) ; 

4 . A disruptive office relocation at the end of fiscal year 

1993 to a new facility; 

5. The on-going new building adjustment problems, including the 
expansion and modification of office space to accommodate 
unplanned staff increases and needs for files storage, 
cooling/heating system deficiencies, and security concerns; 

6. Dealing with numerous union demands, complaints, and 
grievances arising out of allocations of office space, 
furnishings, and equipment, and dissatisfaction with 
employee performance appraisals and promotional appointments 
made ; 

7. Retraining of staff as a result of an operational change 
froT. one known as the "unit" system of case preparation, 
development, and disposition, to the present "reconfigured" 
system,; 

8. Assim.ilation and training of personnel constituting more 
than a 50% increase in Hearing Clerk/Office Automation Clerk 
support staff without supervisory clerical personnel; 

9. The inability to utilize "numerics" m employee performance 
evaluations; and 



10. In calculating "per ALJ" comparative statistics, the 
inclusion in the denominator of an ALJ who was not 
effectively contributing to the items included in the 
numerator . 

With the exception of Nos . 3, 5, and 9, none of the listed items 
still persist, although the disparity in productivity between the 
Mobile office and other offices does. 

While much progress was made in fiscal years 1594 and 1995, there 
is room for improvement . I look forward to being part of the 
implementation process. 

I am pleased to assist the Subcommittee in its inquiry, and would 
be glad to provide clarifying details if desired. 



90 

Mr. Gekas. Judge Habermann. 

STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT S. HABERMANN, ADMINISTRA- 
TIVE LAW JUDGE, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, MO- 
BILE, AL 

Judge Habermann. Thank you very much. I am Bob 
Habermann. I am an ALJ and have been an ALJ in Mobile for the 
last 3 years, and for the last 6 months I was the acting hearing 
office Chief Judge. 

I want to tell you just a little bit about my office. We have 57 
hard-working, dedicated men and women — some black, some white, 
some Hispgmic. Some are at the beginning of their careers and 
some are at the end of their careers. Over 40 of these individuals 
were born and bred in Alabama and have great ties to the people 
there. They care deeply about the people of Mobile. Other employ- 
ees who have been assigned to the office have also developed heavy 
ties to the area. We care deeply about Mobile, and we are very dis- 
tressed by the fact that things are not going as well as they could. 

Not too long ago, a few years ago, our office was at the top. We 
were number one or in the top five, and I'm not quite sure why we 
fell so far — I think Frank gave some reasons — but I want to tell 
you that the bottoming out process started a long time ago, and we 
are on our way up. The corps of individuals that we need to ^o 
back to the middle of the pack, and eventually to the top, is in 
place and is functioning well in Mobile. I don't want to hit you with 
a whole lot of statistics. You've heard the stats, and the thing 
about stats is that they can say anything you want them to say, 
but there is one interesting one that I want to say. Over the year 
that just ended this May, the AU's in our office put out almost 
4,800 decisions. These aren't judges fi*om other offices that are is- 
suing them, such as in Charlotte or in Knoxville. These are our 
AU's, and we put out 4,800 dispositions in the last year. And I 
want you to know that if you add up the total dispositions in fiscal 
years 1993 and 1994, that sum is less than the total amount that 
we put out last year. 

So, I think we have really begun to turn things around. If you 
take these 4,800 decisions and divide it by our nine judges, exclud- 
ing the one judge that was only doing one a month, our judges have 
averaged about 44 decisions a month, and that is an incredible in- 
crease from where the average was just 2 or 3 years ago. I think 
we are on our way up. I think that the tide has turned, and I be- 
lieve over the next several years, this trend will continue. 

When I took over as the Acting Chief Judge about 6 months ago, 
our management team decided to take a fresh look at everything. 
We developed a vision; we set plans, objectives, goals. And I want 
to say that a lot of the goals that we set have been met. We devel- 
oped a brandnew approach called the 'TEAM" process of which we 
have implemented the first phase, and we've developed other con- 
cepts such as our part A program. And I think these programs are 
going to continue to show significant results. 

As I stated in mv statement, I think there are things that we 
still need to do. I tnink that the position of a hearing office Chief 
Judge has to be reinforced. I think you need to consider whether 
hearing office Chief Judges have the authority, the power, and the 



91 

tools in order to provide a solution when there are problems in the 
office? Obviously, if you have a well-motivated, professional staff 
and things are working well, then the job of the HOCALJ — the 
Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge, as we call a 
HOCALJ — all these acronyms — is a very easy job. But where you 
have problems in the office, where employees are not producing, 
where employees are not doing their share, there needs to be more 
authority given to the hearing office chief. 

In my statement I talked about the fact that there are no produc- 
tion standards, which amazes me. The bench, the bar, the public, 
the Congress, and the news media are looking very closely at the 
Social Security Administration for numbers. They want to know 
how many cases we put out, how many cases are pending, but as 
far as I know, not one single member of my staff has a production 
quota. It's difficult for a manager to manage when he can't predict 
or expect certain results out of nis employees. 

I think we have to look at certain other things. We need a code 
of judicial ethics forjudges; I think that's imperative. I think there 
should be standardized case-processing guidelines. 

I see my time is up. 

Mr. Gekas. We extend to you the same courtesy that the others 
abused. 

Judge Habermann. I will not abuse it because I am at the very 
end. 

Each of the judges in my office has their own particular way of 
doing a case. I think that there should be some standardization 
there. And I think that we should have a peer review type of sys- 
tem where the local judges in an office can put pressure on their 
fellow judges, where those judges are having problems in particular 
areas. 

I want to make iust one more comment. As far as I know, we 
judges in the Mobile office have never, ever refused to meet with 
anybody from the Congress, and we welcome the opportunity at 
any time to sit down with Congressmen, any Congressman — we 
have several in our particular region — and meet with them and dis- 
cuss problems. 

It's been an honor to be here. I guess all my life I wanted to be 
here before Congress and say a few things. I thank you for the op- 
portunity — and I don't want you to read that the wrong way — and 
I'm certainly willing to answer any questions you may have, either 
now or later. Thank you. 

[The prepared statement of Judge Habermann follows:] 



92 

Prepared Statement of Hon. Robert B. Habermann, Administrative Law 
Judge, Social Securtty Administration, Mobile, AL 



MR. CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF T HE SUBCOMMITTEE: 

My name is Robert S. Habermann, and I am currently an 
Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Hearings and Appeals 
in Mobile, Alabama. From December 1, 1995 to May 4, 1996, I 
served as the Hearing Office Chief Administrative Law Judge in 
this office. I have attached my Biographical Sketch to this 
statement should you wish. any additional information concerning 
my background and experience. I thank the Subcommittee for the 
opportunity to discuss the state of the Mobile Hearing Office 
during my tenure as Acting Chief Judge. 

Our office currently consists of fifty-seven dedicated men and 
women, housed in a "stand alone" building built in Mobile, 
Alabama in 1993. I have attached a chart depicting our 
organizational structure as of April 30, 1996. We currently have 
nine Administrative Law Judges assigned to our office, several of 
whom have had distinguished legal careers. Judge William L. 
Ragland, for example, is a decorated World War II veteran and a 
former Missouri Circuit Court Judge. Judge Irwin W. Coleman, 
Jr., served as an Assistant United States District Attorney, and 
for many years, has been an elected officer in the Association of 
Administrative Law Judges. Judge James D. Smith has served in 
our office for twenty-two years and he has received multiple 
commendations from the Congress, our Agency, the bar, and the 
public. And Judge Alan D. Oboler served for twenty years in the 
public defender's office in New York City, and also was a member 
of the faculty of New York Law School teaching criminal law. I 
hope that these examples provide some insight regarding the 
caliber of Judges in our office. 

Shortly after my appointment as Acting Hearing Office Chief 
Administrative Law Judge, I began working with my Supervisory 
Staff Attorney (Roger Nelson) and my Hearing Office Manager 
(James Ridenor) in formulating our vision for the ensuing six 
months. I wish to state, parenthetically, that these two 
individuals, in my opinion, did a superb job during this period. 

Professor Stephen Legomsky cites the four basic goals in an 
adiudicative system: accuracy, efficiency, acceptability, and 
consistency.- Further, he states: 

The accuracy goal reflects the need to 
ascertain the truth. The goal of efficiency 
encompasses a desire to minimize not only the 
monetary costs to the parties and to the 
public, but also the costs of the waiting 



-Stephen Legomsky, Forum Choices for Review of Agency 
judication . 71 Iowa L. Rev. 1297(1966!. 



93 



time and decisionmakers' time. The 
acceptability goal recognizes the importance 
of having a procedure that the litigants and 
the general public perceive as fair. 

Professor Legomsky also notes that consistency "over-laps partly, 
but not entirely with the other three." Since inconsistent 
decisions result in public uncertainty as to how to plan for the 
future, consistency may be subsumed within accuracy. With these 
principles in mind, my management team identified our two primary 
goals: 1) to continue to raise the Mobile Offices' statistics 
to the Regional average in all categories; and 2) to 
significantly reduce the backlog. I recognized that the success 
of my leadership rested on accomplishing these goals. I believe 
that we were successful in each of these categories. 

It is my view that during this five month time period, we 
continued the forward advance initiated by Judge De Bellis in 
early 1994. With a generous offer of writing-support help from 
Judges Boyer and Watkins, the Judges and support staff of the 
Mobile Hearing Office issued 1877 Decisions and Orders, equalling 
375 cases per month or 41.17 cases per Judge per month over this 
period of time. Note, as a comparison point, that in all of 
FY-1993, we issued only 2042 Decisions and Orders, and only 2660 
were issued in FY-1994. In addition, our "Average Pending Days" 
(the average age of a case on our docket) fell from 339 days on 
December 1, 1995 to 290 days on May 3, 1996. Furthermore, our 
Judges scheduled 2015 hearings over this five month period, 
averaging 45 hearings per month per Judge. This figure is quite 
remarkable due to the fact that there were government shutdowns, 
furloughs, and many holidays during this period. 

We also developed two new work-flow initiatives during this 
period. The first initiative was to implement a case-manager 
system in January, 1996 which we called the TEAM (Together 
Everyone Achieves More) approach. The concept involved a joining 
of a Judge, a legal assistant, a writer, and two hearing clerks 
into a "team". We felt that such a venture would foster our four 
basic goals (efficiency, acceptability, accuracy, and 
consistency) because the team members would be working together. 
Since such a system encourages healthy competition among the 
teams, production and morale would increase. While only Phase I 
of the TEAM concept has been implemented (joining of a Judge and 
a legal, assistant ) , the resultant pairings have been, for the 
most part, very productive and professionally satisfying. 

The second work- flow initiative involved the Part A Medicare 
caseload. In recent months, the office has received an 
unprecedented 7C0 cases from one Provider alone. Many of these 
cases involve the same or similar issues. In short, this 
initiative is aimed at grouping similar- issue cases into distinct 
categories and adjudicating them m bunches. This initiative. 



94 



too, satisfies our goals of accuracy, acceptability, efficiency, 
and consistency, and will lead to greater productivity. Hence, 
"more bang for the buck." 

Finally, my management team worked together to dramatically 
improve our labor- relations profile. We resolved all pending 
grievances and EEOC complaints. In addition, no new grievances, 
Unfair Labor Practices, or EEOC complaints were filed during this 
period. We extended the hand of partnership to the Union, and 
together, we equitably resolved many matters of mutual concern. 

On March 23, 1996, I advised Judge Watkins that I wished to be 
relieved of my position as Acting Chief Judge. While I have 
several personal reasons for stepping down, two reasons were 
paramount. First, I have served as a Manager for most of the 
past twenty years, and I now wished to be just a Judge. Second, 
and perhaps most troubling to me, the Chief Judge position lacks 
the necessary power to function effectively. Much of the problem 
arises with the inherent contradictions in managing adjudication 
generally. Managers need predictability and accountability. 
Judges need independence and flexibility, and as such are often 
profoundly anti -bureaucratic . 

In a 1991 article,^ Jerry L. Marshaw highlighted this conflict: 

Administrators would prefer to think of 
administrative adjudicators as a part of the 
administration team. They feel an 
institutional responsibility for agency 
decisions, a responsibility that is imperiled 
by adjudicatory impartiality. Too much of 
the latter and adjudicators can make policy 
to suit themselves, regulated parties, or the 
agency's clientele, rather than promoting the 
program of the agency in whose name they 
adjudicate . 

The fear of runaway adjudicators reflects but 
one aspect of the tension between 
adjudication and administration. 
Administrators are concerned with general 
administrative programs, not with 
particularized inquiries. Rather than 
viewing each case as a unique opportunity to 
dispense individualized justice, as a job to 
be done well in and for itself, 
administrators are likely to see adjudication 



-Jerry L. Marshaw, Organizing Adjudication , Reflections on 
the Prospect for Artisans in the Age of Rcbocs . Admin. Law. News 
Vol. 17, No. 3 (Soring, 1992) 



merely as the means for implementing rules. 
In their heart of hearts they would prefer 
rule-bound application of agency policy to 
innovative adjudicatory problem solving. 

While tension between Judges and management may be unavoidable, 
steps can be taken to lessen the strain. Peer review mechanisms, 
a Code of Judicial Ethics, standardized case processing 
procedures, and case management initiatives aimed at delegating 
more control to the Judges over their dockets could be 
implemented to accelerate the adjudicative process. In turn, 
these measures would also provide guidance and benchmarks to the 
Judges regarding goals and aspirations. It is my personal view 
that these are needed here. 

In addition, while the Social Security Administration is closely 
watched by the Congress, the Press, and the public regarding 
backlogs and disposition rates, I am unaware of any production 
standards for our employees in the Office of Hearings and 
Appeals. It's difficult for a manager to manage a high-volume 
operation when there are no production standards. 

Furthermore, the employees' performance evaluations at the Office 
of Hearings and Appeals have changed from a multi-tier evaluation 
system to a "pass-fail" system. Therefore, a high achiever may 
score as well as a mediocre achiever. There are few incentives 
to do well other than "professionalism." 

In my prior position as General Counsel of the Benefits Review 
Board at the Department of Labor, I headed an office of 125 
attorneys plus an additional 75 member support staff. As a 
manager, I could hire, fire, evaluate, promote, discipline, 
award, and assign work within the confines of the Union Contract. 
Most of these management tools are either non-existent or 
significantly diminished at the Office of Hearings and Appeals, 
and leave the manager to depend on the professionalism of the 
Judges and support staff to accomplish the mission of the office. 
Where the Judges are well-motivated, the office generally runs 
very well as the energy "trickles down" and ignites the staff. 
But if a professional staff member is not well -motivated, the 
manager is left with few options. As a manager in Mobile, I was 
generally well pleased with the high-caliber professional staff 
(both Judges and support staff) , and I am grateful for their 
support, encouragement, and the high standards they set for 
themselves. Most of them are "self-starters". However, in those 
instances where motivation was lacking, I was helpless as a 
manager to rectify the situation. 

In summary, the Judges and support staff of the Mobile Office 
have continued the forward advance initiated by Judge De Bellis. 
The highly professional and dedicated Judicial and support staff 
issued almost 1900 Decisions and Orders and scheduled over 2000 



96 



during the December 1 to May 3, 1996 timeframe. We have 
developed several effective work-flow initiatives, and we are 
working in partnership with the Union to establish a productive 
and pleasant work environment. I have indicated that peer-review 
mechanisms, a Code of Judicial Ethics, case processing 
guidelines, and production standards may be helpful in goal- 
setting and goal -achieving initiatives. 

I will be glad to answer, in my personal capacity, any questions 
you may have . 



97 



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98 

Mr. Gekas. We^l test you right away. 

Part of your testimonv at the end seems to contradict, a little bit, 
what Congressman Callahan asserted as part of his main testi- 
mony, that, in fact, in his judgment, the way he concluded, there 
was a kind of a gag rule imposed relative to his request to meet 
with the hearing judges — the ALJ's — and others in tne Mobile of- 
fice. You're saying that you never refused to meet with Sonny Cal- 
lahan. Is that correct? 

Judge Habermann. Yes, that's correct. 

Mr. Gekas. But, did he request a meeting directly from you? 

Judge HABERMAhfN. I've never received a invitation directly from 
the Congressman to speak with him. There were a couple of occa- 
sions when he was at our office, that we expected that Congress- 
man Callahan would be meeting with us, and for some reason — and 
I don't know what the reason is — ^that meeting didn't happen. 

Mr. Gekas. Did you ever receive a directive from anyone, includ- 
ing the individuals on the panel, not to meet with Congressman 
Callahan? 

Judge Habermann. Well, this is a very difficult question, and I 
think each of us have 

Mr. Gekas. Well, give us a difficult answer. 

Judge Habermann. Thank vou. I don't know what the policy was 
before I became the Acting Chief Judge, but on December 1 it was 
my impression that I should initiate no contact with Mr. Callahan, 
and that if there was any contact made that it should be referred 
up to the regional office. And I adhered to that policy throughout 
my entire time as Acting Chief Judge. 

Mr. Gekas. That smacks of a kind of gag rule, so the credibility 
of the testimony from Congressman Callahan takes on new stand- 
ards, as it were. I believe, fervently, that part of the improvement 
that has now been asserted by the members of this panel is due 
in part to Sonny Callahan's extraordinary interest and honing-in 
on the problem. 

Judge Habermann. I agree with that fully. 

Mr. Gekas. So, his credibility in that regard is very high. So, 
when he also says that he feels he was the subject of a gag rule, 
I have to — as one member of this subcommittee and as Chair — give 
a lot of credibility to that. And now what you tell me seems to, in 
perhaps a left-handed way, give credence to the notion of a gag 
rule. 

Judge Habermann. I don't want to use that word, you know, 
"gag rule." I'm not sure what it means. 

Mr. Gekas. Well, we're trying to be dramatic about it, perhaps, 
but everybody understands that the order that you received was 
not to initiate contact with Congressman Callahan. Was that the 
extent of what you were directed to do? 

Judge Habermann. I have nothing in writing, but it's been my 
strong belief, ever since I became the Acting Chief Judge, that the 
policy was to initiate no contact and to refer any contact up to the 
regional office. 

Mr. Gekas. Was that by word of mouth? 

Judge Habermann. I've searched for how this became apparent 
to me, and to this day I don't know exactly how it became apparent 
to me. But I can tell you that through the judges in my office, it 



99 

was apparent to everyone I talked to. I don't have a written direc- 
tive. I have on a couple of occasions requested the opportunity to 
speak to Mr. Callahan, and I was not able to provide any contact 
or receive any contact from him. 

Mr. Gekas. There was a letter, apparently, from Judge Boyer to 
Congressman Callahan on May 15, 1996, in which there was an as- 
sertion that there was no directive prohibiting AU's from speaking 
to him. So, that comports a little bit with what you're saying, that 
there was no actual directive. But you — somewhere — gathered an 
understanding that that was the suggestion, if nothing else. 

Judge Habermann. Yes, and I've searched my heart and my con- 
science — and my notes. I do not have anything in writing from any 
official above me that would prohibit this practice. I can tell you 
that I had sought out the permission to make contact, and I was 
not able to make contact. But I have no directive, so it very well 
could be that my behef was incorrect or mislaid. 

Mr. Gekas. Yes, we have the text of the E-mail signed by Margie 
Cargile. Do you know who that is? 

Judge Habermann. Yes, I know who she is. 

Mr. Gekas. Who is she? 

Judge Habermann. She works, I believe, on Judge Watkins' 
staff. I'm not quite sure what her title is. I've never met her per- 
sonally; I have talked to her on the phone. 

Mr, Gekas. Well, then, in effect there is a written directive of 
some sort here to which you apparently could allude in your under- 
standing that you were not to contact Congressman Callahan. Is 
that correct? 

Judge Habermann. I have read the E-mail. I think it's dated 
something like May 29, or whatever. 

Mr, Gekas, So it was more than just a feeling that you had or 
an understanding that you reached. This says, "If you did you re- 
ceive a call from Congressman Callahan's office and you said that 
you would call back once you received direction and guidance from 
the RO, please call the stafiF person that called you back and advise 
him or her that their information request should be referred to the 
Atlanta regional office." So that, indeed, there is a kind of under- 
standing that you can infer from that, that you should not talk, nor 
any of the people in your office should talk, to Congressman Cal- 
lahan. So I can't blame him. Congressman Callahan, for believing 
that there was a kind of a gag order issued. 

My time has run out in the first round. I will yield, and then I 
will come back to this question and others in the second round, in 
the third round, in the fourth — well, whatever. But now I yield to 
the gentleman from Rhode Island. 

Mr, Reed, Thank you, Mr,Chairman, 

I want to thank you gentlemen for your testimony today, and I 
just basically want to ensure I understand what you've said. A lot 
of what you've said is that it's not the ALJ's fault because the 
ALJ's role is very limited, and I'm just wondering how limited it 
is, and I'll ask some basic questions. There was the example of Mr. 
Burge, who said that after the 5-minute hearing it took 79 days to 
receive a decision. Do I assume from your testimony that the judge 
just sort of sat passively there for 79 days with no inquiries about 
the case and no system in place to ensure that his or her decision 



100 

was implemented? Is that the system you operate in? Judge De 
Bellis. 

Judge De Bellis. In effect, yes. I don't think that there's a rou- 
tine followup on every decision that's made that goes into the writ- 
ing component. Then it is assigned by the supervisor of that compo- 
nent, the staff supervisory attorney, to a particular decision writer. 
The next time that the judge normally sees the case is when a deci- 
sion has been drafted. I can't tell from the dates that we have be- 
fore us when the decision was made and when it was referred to 
the decision-writing component. It may have been the day before; 
it could be. As a matter of fact, when we do have reason to expe- 
dite, in what is referred to as critical cases, it happens exactly that 
way. You'll have a decision; you'll have a decision drafted, and 
you'll have it out — ^possibly within 24 hours or less. 

Mr. Reed. And the system that you describe is a system that op- 
erates throughout the entire Social Security system? 

Judge De Bellis. I can't speak for the other offices, because I do 
know that there is great disparity in actual processes. 

Mr. Reed. Perhaps Mr. Boyer could speak for the other offices. 
Is this the system in every HO? 

Judge Boyer. Mr. Reed, I can assure you that there is a system 
in place to address what are labeled "dire need" cases. And when 
a case is marked as dire need under emergency situations — as have 
been described here today, I might add — tnat case would have been 
advanced to the front of the line in the writing component, and as 
Judge De Bellis pointed out, that case could have been issued with- 
in 24 to 48 hours. I don't know what happened in Mr. Burge's par- 
ticular case, but, yes, that system is in place. 

Mr. Reed. Mr. Habermann. 

Judge Habermann. Yes, thank you. In this particular case, the 
hearing was held on July 18, 1995 — and I have his note. The ALJ 
said on that date that it should be granted, and it is signed by his 
initials saying it is favorable and the basis for it was given on that 
date. The following day his clerk assigned it to the decision-writing 
pool. So, the ALJ did his job on the day of the hearing, or within 
a few hours of the actual hearing, and it was forwarded to the deci- 
sion-writing component on the following day. It was not released 
until September 29. This delay in our office at that time was cer- 
tainly not uncommon. We're talking about 2V2 months, and at the 
time that was not uncommon. In fact, for certain cases that would 
be very fast. 

Mr. Reed. It just strikes me that this is an absolutely horrible 
system, that no one has any responsibility. Because I would sug- 
gest that if we quiz the administrators who are the decision writ- 
ers, they would say, "Well, unless they tell me this is really a dire 
priority," which I presume was afler a call from a Congressman's 
office, then it becomes a dire priority. 

Judge Boyer. Well, sir 

Mr. Gekas. Then it becomes irritating. 

Judge Boyer. Actually, the source of the information which 
would bring it to our attention that it is a dire need could be the 
congressional office, and sometimes it is, but when we talk about 
a dire need, we're talking about the particular circumstances or 
conditions of an individual 



101 

Mr. Gekas. a cardiac patient who is in distress. 

Judge BoYER [continuing]. Which might be medical or might be 
economic. 

Mr. Reed, Let me ask you, Judge, who makes that dire need as- 
sessment? 

Judge BoYER. Sometimes the hearing office management makes 
that assessment. 

Mr. Reed. So the judge doesn't? 

Judge BoYER. Well, if it comes to the judge's attention, the judge 
can ask, as the judge frequently does, that it be called a dire need 
case. I would also, Mr. Congressman, like to mention that while I 
don't know what happened in this specific case, but there is an in- 
dividual responsible for seeing that cases move through the deci- 
sion-writing process and move through there expeditiously. There 
is a supervisory staff attorney whose job is to see that cases aren't 
bogged-down or backlogged in decision writing. The processing time 
for cases to be written is a goal, nationwide, that we're working 
very vigorously on and have reduced it at the present time to ap- 
proximately 20 days. We will have that down to between 10 and 
15 days by the end of this fiscal year. In Mobile, their average time 
was under 40 days so I can't explain what happened on this par- 
ticular case, but there is an individual responsible and it can be ex- 
pedited. 

Mr. Reed. With the chairman's indulgence — so, there was a su- 
pervisory staff attorney in the Mobile office that was responsible 
for monitoring these cases? 

Judge De Bellis. Well, it's his function to assign the decisions 
to be written and to supervise the quality of the decision as well. 

Mr. Reed. Where is this individual today? 

Judge De Bellis. Today? Is he at the regional conference? 

Judge Watkins. He's at the regional conference. 

Mr. Reed. No, I'm talking about not literally today, but I'm try- 
ing to find out who is responsible for — and I think that person — 
the staff or someone — should approach and ask for his or her com- 
ments about this process, too, because this seems to be a situation 
where actually no one is in charge, and it's a system that — I mean, 
I'm amazed that other offices seem to function much better than 
the Mobile office if this is the system that we all have to confront 
every day. 

Judge Watkins. May I speak to that. Congressman, briefly? 

Mr. Reed. Yes. 

Judge Watkins. The particular situation that you hear sounds 
unreasonable on its face; however, it's not atypical for Mobile or 
any other office until this year, when Shirley Chater said that she 
did not want these decisions waiting in the queue to be written, es- 
pecially the fully-favorable decisions which are easier to draft than 
the others in terms of legal defensibility. We started to send out 
all fully-favorable decisions immediately. We directed local hearing 
office management to send those out to people that we had trained. 
Some were within the Office of Hearings and Appeals, and others 
were in other components of Social Security. We got those decisions 
drafted, and we had a target of 1 week of getting them drafted and 
turned around back to the offices, and we had great success. So, 



26-052 0-96 



102 

I would like to think that that situation that occurred — Mr. Burge's 
case — could not occur today. 

Mr. Reed. I thank the gentleman. 

Mr. Chairman. 

Mr. Gekas. Well grant you a second round, if you so desire. 

I was fascinated by the fact that Judge Watkins revealed to us 
that at one point the Association of Administrative Law Judges 
was willing and able and did supply volunteers to help out with 
their workload. Is that correct? 

Judge Watkins. Congressman, I do not have an adversarial rela- 
tionship with the AU Association — quite to the contrary. 

Mr. Gekas. I didn't imply that you did. What I was saying was 
that pleased me to hear, first, that you could call upon it; secondly, 
that the association was at your right side to try to help. 

Judge Watkins. They have been very helpful, and I would like 
to add that President Cleveland has been open to any suggestions 
to improve 

Mr. Gekas. President Grover Cleveland was one of the greatest 
historic figures of our time, yes. 

Judge Watkins. I'm speaking of President Melford Cleveland of 
the ALJ Association. 

Mr. Gekas. At any rate, let me ask you this. I take it that the 
first choice of the volunteers, or how Judge Cleveland might have 
begun to gather some volunteer chits, came from Social Security 
Administration ALJ's from around the country. Is that correct? 

Judge Watkins. That's correct. 

Mr. Gekas. Was there any instance to your knowledge in which 
a judge could have volunteered from another realm, or is your 
knowledge only related to the Social Security ALJ's? 

Judge Watkins. No, we only had Social Security ALJ's, Con- 
gressman. 

Mr. Gekas. As volunteers? 

Judge Watkins. That's correct. 

Mr. Gekas. All right. That's very important to me because it 
means that the association, as such, vis-a-vis the corps that I envi- 
sion, could do the same thing nationwide and plug in where needed 
to help catch up with the backlog, et cetera. The other thing that 
I wanted to ask, and this was of Judge De Bellis, relates to the 
analysis made by Judge Bemoski. He was able to dissect the rela- 
tionship between the work and duty of the ALJ and all that pre- 
cedes and follows the adjudication that he performs. That, too, is 
very important to me in relation to our new legislation. 

So, the 5-minute decision that everybody applauds with respect 
to Mr. Burge, which was an open-and-shut case, as it were, for this 
administrative law judge to take 5 minutes for a favorable decision 
in a case that consumed 3 years for the claimant — that cannot be 
laid at the feet of the ALJ in Question, but, rather, on the process 
to which the gentleman from Rhode Island is referring; that is, the 
before and after. Is that correct? 

Judge De Bellis. The delay? 

Mr. Gekas. Yes. 

Judge De Bellis. Yes, that's correct. 

Mr. Gekas. Getting back to the so-called gag rule which Con- 
gressman Callahan has so eloquently described for us, there was 



103 

a second E-mail, apparently, in which the bold language, "Do not 
provide any information," referring to Congressman Callahan's of- 
fice, is part and parcel of a directive that seems to come from — 
Margie Cargile — and it comes from Judge Watkins's office? 

Judge Watkins. She is my acting regional management officer — 
and if I could address that. Congressman? 

Mr. Gekas. Yes, I'm going to ask you about that. But it says 
here, "We have been advised by OCALJ." Is that Judge Boyer's of- 
fice? 

Judge BOYER. If I may, Mr. Chairman, since there are these 
questions about the gag order concern. I am quite concerned myself 
tnat what I see is a Tack of communication with the Congressman's 
office, and I intend to see that communication from my office and 
from all of our offices is improved, because I'm here once again to 
reassure his office and yours that there is no, "gag order," as I 
would understand it or perceive it. If I could explain what the pol- 
icy — and the longstanding policy of this agency — has been for manv 
years, and that is, on all matters that are related to inquiries rel- 
ative to a constituent of yours, we are to answer those inquiries 
and answer them promptly. 

On nonspecific matters, which gets us into areas of budgeting, 
processing times, delays, and the like that are a part of a bigger 
picture, the policy of the agency has been — ^for certainly as long as 
I can rememoer m my career — that those types of inquiries should 
simply go through either the regional office or the chief judge's of- 
fice, where the opportunity to bring those responses into the broad- 
er context is provided. And that policy is specified. 

Mr. Gekas. Wouldn't it be wiser to say, "Provide the information, 
but notify or give copies of that information to the superior," so 
that everybody knows what information was granted? Isn't that a 
simpler and better way? From the standpoint of the Members of 
Congress, that's much better. 

Judge Watkins. May I add to that. Congressman? 

Mr. Gekas. Yes. 

Judge Watkins. There are some considerations: we got — in this 
particular case — we got a request to provide the home addresses, 
names, and other personal information about the AU's in the of- 
fice. Those raise privacy concerns that have to be interpreted and 
applied at the national level. So, anytime anything involves 

Mr. Gekas. Aren't they a matter of public record, the addresses 
of where ALJ's reside? 

Judge Watkins. Well, it asked for home numbers and home ad- 
dresses, and we had to refer that sensitive issue to the Chief 
Judge's office; they worked with the Commissioner's office in Balti- 
more in trying to coordinate a response to that. But if you start to 
provide that information locally, and the cat's out of the bag, and 
it's inappropriate, then you have an employee on the line who has 
done something inappropriate. 

Mr. Gekas. Well, we could talk about that some other time. 
We're talking about a phone book and accessibility to a Member of 
Congress who wants to get some answers. I understand privacy 
and confidentiality, but this is too much, to not provide any infor- 
mation. The gentleman from Alabama was justified in being 
"irked," to say the least. 



104 

Judge BOYER. Understandably, and I believe that certainly we 
can work on our communication skills. If I could, Mr. Grekas, there 
are a couple of other quick comments that I'd like to make at this 
point. Your referral to using outside AU's for the emergency situa- 
tion that we've had and that Judge Watkins and Judge De Bellis 
have tried to address. Those non-SSA iudges, of course, would not 
provide us immediate relief because they don't have the training 
and experience in the Social Security law and work that we wanted 
and needed immediately. I know steps can be taken to improve 
upon that, but for the short-term fix — and we certainly intend this 
to be a short-term fix because we do intend for Mobile to come up 
to the norm, and to be stable, and to address their own workload — 
but we needed immediate help. 

Reference has been made to our processes. I would reassure the 
subcommittee, and I believe as the subcommittee knows. Social Se- 
curity is taking a very close look at all of our processes through re- 
design or reengineering. This process is going on right now taking 
a look at the delays and how we can reduce them. We believe that 
there are many answers to be found, and that much improvement 
can be made. 

Reference has also been made to the concerns about performance 
standards and the lack of performance standards within the Office 
of Hearings and Appeals. This policy of general rather than numer- 
ical performance standards was adopted by Social Security agency- 
wide over a year-and-a-half ago as part of an effort to work in part- 
nership with the unions to come up with a better system of evalu- 
ating our employees. This is not something that is unique to the 
Office of Hearings and Appeals; it is present throughout all of SSA. 

Thank you, sir. 

Mr, Gekas. We will yield to the gentleman from Rhode Island for 
another round of questioning. 

Mr. Reed. Just very quickly, Mr. Chairman. From what's been 
described today, the system seems to be critically out of whack. The 
idea that the hearing officer makes the decision, and then someone 
else writes the opinion, and then maybe a year later it shows up 
for signature seems to be not a way to organize the system. This 
is a purely amateur opinion, I might add, but I'm not being totally 
sanguine, also, about the AU's down in Mobile. I think, essen- 
tially, unless there is other evidence that will come forward, that 
they acquiesced to a situation in which there is limited output by 
their colleagues. How else do you justify the very extraordinarily 
poor output of the Mobile office? 

So I would suggest that in this situation it is not just the kind 
of bizarre administrative aspects that I think are emerging from 
the hearing today. I just wonder what we can do — and it might be 
to reorganize the administration to make the judges be more ac- 
countable for their workload? I offer that as a comment and for 
your response. 

Judge BoYER. Thank you, Mr. Reed. If I could, and I know that 
we were not speaking — I hope — literally, because I know of no spe- 
cific instance where a decision of a judge went into the decision- 
writing pool and actually waited one full year before being issued. 
Nevertheless, the delay that was certainly pointed out in Mr. 
Burge's case, and some of the delays we have elsewhere, we find 



105 

unacceptable and steps are being taken to reduce those delays. I 
believe that our judges are accountable for their work, and I be- 
lieve that, as you suggested here, there may well have been more 
that the judge could have done in this particular instance but with- 
out knowing all the details, it's difficult for me to suggest remedies 
that he could have taken at the time. 

Many of our judges in simple terms — I probably shouldn't use 
that word, but in the legal world of a complicated decision versus 
a less-complicated decision — and this certainly appears to be a less- 
complicated decision — many of our judges are writing their own de- 
cisions if they are capable of doing that. They've made a tremen- 
dous contribution in that regard. That's certainly one thing that 
could have happened. Another thing that could have happened is 
that the judge, while not in charge of the decision-writing staff, is 
in charge of his or her docket, and the judge can go back and ask 
questions about what's going on with particular cases. They're pro- 
vided a list of the cases that they have and they can follow 
through. 

Much has been said about one system of hearing office configura- 
tion versus another system of configuration, as to whether a unit 
system should prevail, or whether a pooling or team system should 
prevail. The fact of the matter is that at the current time, nation- 
wide, OHA has no firm policy as to how each office shall individ- 
ually be configured. We take into account many factors in deter- 
mining how they should be organized. 

Some of the smaller offices, of which Mobile is not one, have 
found it very beneficial to go back to a system where specific people 
are assigned to work only for specific ALJ's. What happened in the 
early and mideighties is that we developed this pooling or reconfig- 
uration system. Many studies at that time showed — and we'll be 
glad to provide those to the subcommittee if you would like — that 
the pooling of staff under conditions where resources were lim- 
ited — and that is the same circumstance that we're in today — pro- 
vided the most beneficial and most efficient way to operate our in- 
dividual hearing offices. That is how we wound up with this system 
that we have today with staff pooled or reconfigured. Nonetheless, 
there is still some variance and some flexibility in how offices may 
organize offered at this time under our current policy. 

Mr. Reed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

Mr, Gekas. I have no more questions. I do want to conclude by 
stating to these distinguished judges who form this panel that I 
take it that in the future there will be no such thing as a gag rule, 
or what we characterize as a gag rule, or failure or reluctance to 
provide information to a Member of Congress, particularly Con- 
gressman Callahan since he screams rather loudly at this whole 
array of circumstances. So, there has been a benefit derived from 
this hearing right from the start, because that's what I gather will 
be the future policy governing the provision of information to the 
Congressman from that area or from any other area. Next, the fact 
that there has been an improvement in the backlog statistics and 
in the attention given to particular cases in Mobile — that, too, has 
to be attributed in part to the intense effort of Congressman Sonny 
Callahan to bring about better service for his constituents. 



106 

So, those conclusions that I draw are good and they make this 
hearing a success. It does not end here, however, because all of the 
other problems that we see, particularly with the process, as the 
gentleman from Rhode Island has pointed out, and with whether 
or not the current system, as we have learned from some testimony 
here today, comports with the Administrative Procedure Act. I have 
purposelv not elicited questions or answers about that particular 
phase of what we're doing here. That's what the next witness is 
going to try to portray for us and that's going to be very valuable 
for this subcommittee as it proceeds along the path of looking into 
the entire ALJ structure. 

With that, I thank every member of the panel. 

Judge Watkins. Mr. Chairman, I'm loath to add anything be- 
cause, as you know, I have a plane to catch. 

Mr. Gekas. Yes, I was going to suggest that those of you who can 
remain to hear the testimony of Judge Cleveland should do so, but 
if you can't, you can't. 

Judge Watkins. But the one thing that I can't leave unanswered: 
The suggestion that there's been a gag order, or any indication that 
any judge should not speak with any Congressman, does not come 
from my office, never has, and never will. I have over 250 judges 
in region IV. They meet and talk with Congressmen and Senators 
on a daily basis. 

Mr. Gekas. Well, we're justified in drawing a conclusion from the 
E-mail and from even what Judge Boyer has produced that there 
is. If you don't want to raise it to the level of saying a gag rule, 
you can describe it anyway you want to — it's not good. 

Judge Watkins. All right. 

Mr. Gekas. I thank the gentlemen. 

Judge Boyer. I thank the chairman, and I can assure you of our 
continued cooperation and support. 

Mr. Gekas. Judge Cleveland. No relation to Grover Cleveland? 

Judge Cleveland. Yes, sir; we claim it. 

Mr. Gekas. Judge Cleveland is the president of the Association 
of Administrative Law Judges and, at my request, I wanted to see 
how he could characterize this whole Mobile mess within the con- 
text of the Administrative Procedure Act and whether that could 
five us some insight as to how that system — just in Mobile — could 
e improved. We ask the gentleman to proceed to testify. Any writ- 
ten statement will be incorporated into the record without objec- 
tion. You may proceed. 

STATEMENT OF HON. MELFORD CLEVELAND, PRESIDENT, 
ASSOCIATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGES, INC. 

Judge Cleveland. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the 
opportunity of being here, and I will repeat for the record that I 
am speaking as the president of the judges' association, and not in 
any way for the Social Security Administration. 

The Mobile situation is very regrettable. There's already been 
testimony that we've done our best in the association by getting 
volunteers to go there. Basically, that's about all the association 
could do in the present context. With certain exceptions, Mr. Chair- 
man and Congressman Reed, it is my opinion that in Mobile and 
elsewhere, the judges have done about the best that they could 



107 

with the management handicap that they labor under. The truth 
of the matter is — and this sounds strange and I know it; I've been 
an ALJ a long time — ^but the truth of the matter is that under the 
present system, the only time the judge has control of the case is 
when he holds the hearing and when he signs the decision. 

I would refer you to the very back page of my statement, Mr. 
Chairman, where I have a diagram. This diagram shows at the top, 
where it says, "One, Former OHA Unit System," the way we 
worked, in my opinion, satisfactorily for many years. A judge had 
a writer, a clerk, and usuallv a hearing assistant. The judge had 
a docket of cases. I, personally, was familiar with the progress of 
practically all of my cases in my head at that time. If anybody 
called, I could either tell them or pull open a file cabinet and tell 
vou what was going on and get it worked out. I was personally em- 
barrassed if a case didn't move. 

Then they came along with what they call reconfiguration. That's 
number two, down at the bottom of the page. And you will note 
that there is a manager at every level so that, in effect, you go 
through a manager to each operating person, and you may have to 
go through the hearing oflTice manager — through a manager — and 
then to the operating person and there are many hands on the 
case. When a case leaves my office — and for a while I was embar- 
rassed, but you just have to take it — when it leaves my office to 
be written, I have no idea where it goes. I inquired not long ago 
about a case, and they scurried around about a day and then said, 
"Oh, that one was shipped out to New York some time ago." 

And it is. Congressman Reed — and I say this without equivo- 
cation, and I've worked all over the Government for 43 years — it 
is the worst system that I've ever seen. And the lowest clerk 
doesn't mind telling you, "No, I can't do that. You have to go 
through my supervisor." And the supervisor may say, "You have to 
go through the hearing office manager." Now, you make your peace 
with it. You know, you get friends; you get things done indirectly 
and you get it done outside channels. 

But I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that a hearing office man- 
ager can control the numbers of cases that a judge gets out, either 
way, no matter what the judge does — now there are exceptional 
judges; I understand that — but the managers decide which cases 
are written, when, by whom, where, and which judge's cases are 
written first. It is — and I don't want to be too emotional about 
this — ^but it is the worst system that I ever worked under, and 
judges have to live with it. 

In addition to — I believe you referred to it as an administrative 
jungle, Mr. Chairman, which I think it is — there is one more ele- 
ment, I believe, in the Mobile situation, and I'll cover that and then 
to straight into the APA. But with all due respect — and I have 
nothing to gain by this, but I'm a long-time observer — the prede- 
cessors of Ms. Rita Greier, who is now the Associate Commissioner, 
the predecessor of Chief Judge Boyer and the predecessor of the 
Regional Chief Watkins were not very active. 

Are you going to give me my minute? 

Mr. Gekas. Yes, we'll enlarge your minute. 

Judge Cleveland. Thank you, sir. 



108 

Judge Cleveland. They were really not very active about a lot 
of things. Now this present group, I don't agree with them in a lot 
of ways. They are required to defend this reconfiguration thing, 
and they are against your bill, H.R. 1802, and they're dead wrong 
on both of those, but they are active. They have done things; they 
have jumped into this Mobile thing and they have jumped into 
other things, too. I think that is a plus and I think the fact that 
there was not that much activity at the top of OHA for some years 
explains partly why there was such a buildup of cases, in addition 
to this administrative muddle that I've pointed out. 

But I would like to emphasize — and I'm dead serious about 
this — that judges don't control the cases in the average office in 
any way, whatsoever, and it's embarrassing, but that's the way it 
is. I'm doubtful that any Congress ever envisioned that an agency 
operating under the APA would ever have such a system as this 
reconfiguration. But, nonetheless, I think on the 50th anniversary 
of the APA, we ought to look into the background and remind our- 
selves why certain things are in it. 

Prior to the Administrative Procedure Act, especially in the 
1930's, there were many new Government agencies filled with 
many new Grovernment bureaucrats. And it must have been really 
chaos there at the time, because a person would have his rights 
questioned or put in jeopardy by an agency, and he might not know 
what decision would be made, where the decision would be made, 
by whom, or what was required of him, or what he could do. It was 
pretty well — as far as I can tell from the literature — chaos. But he 
could be sure of one or two things, and one of them was that the 
people who investigated the situation and the people who pros- 
ecuted it against him might also be the people who decided the 
case. And he might also know that if the initial decisionmaker 
didn't suit the head of the agency, he or she might not be promoted 
or might lose his or her job. 

So there was a great clamor that these hearing offices were the 
complete tools of the agency and that, in effect, it was a kangaroo 
court. And I might say that since this was in the 1930's and these 
were new agencies, the first really strong complaints, Mr. Chair- 
man, came from the political party that was not in power in the 
1930's, but, eventually, everybody began to see that this was not 
a good thing at all. 

World War II came along and then the Administrative Procedure 
Act was unanimously adopted by the Congress. Basically, it pro- 
vides litigants and the public due process of law. Judges are ap- 
pointed and act pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, and 
their independence is, to some degree, protected. This protection of 
the litigants, the public, and the ALJ's left the agencies free to con- 
duct their missions and to carry out their policies. The protections 
of the act were merely intended to free the hearing officers — now 
ALJ's — from complete domination and control by the employing 
agency. In our view, there are still areas of control by agencies over 
ALJ's that we think are unfortunate. And in my complete state- 
ment, Mr. Chairman, I have quoted our senior senator, Senator 
Heflin, about the subtle pressures and all that we are somewhat 
familiar with. But, Mr. Chairman 



109 

Mr. Gekas. In that regard, Judge Cleveland, while the thought 
is in my head 

Judge Cleveland. Yes, sir. 

Mr. Gekas [continuing]. We did have, also, some court cases in 
which the conclusion was that the judge rendering the decision, 
perhaps, was too much beholden to the agency that hired him. Is 
that correct? 

Judge Cleveland. Yes, sir. In my complete statement I cite par- 
ticularly the case of Administrative Law Judges v. Heckler, where 
the U.S. district court found that because of these various pres- 
sures and all, that even under the APA, we could be — it would not 
have been extraordinary if ALJ had not been swayed by the pres- 
sures, and I lived through that, Mr. Chairman. I had directives; we 
had general directives. We were told that the good news was when 
we were paying less cases and there were all kinds of pressures for 
us to pay less cases and to not follow the directives of the U.S. dis- 
trict court, but to follow the agency's policies. That was in the 
1980's when the Social Security Administration cut ofF about 
400,000 people from benefits and the ALJ's and the courts put a 
lot of them back on. 

But, bureaucrats go both ways, Mr. Chairman, but they always, 
in my opinion, want to push you a little bit. And I can say this 
openly because I've been in the Government for a long time — and 
I won't be here much longer — but I have seen this over and over 
again. I will say, however, Mr. Chairman, that whatever comes or 
goes, whether the bureaucrats' policy is to cut people off or to pay 
down the backlog, or whatever else, our association will be very 
vigilant to see that people get fair hearings and that due process 
of law is not eroded. 

If I could just clear up one thing, Mr. Chairman, with great re- 
spect. Congressman Callahan asserted that ALJ's have lifetime ap- 
pointments; that's not correct. We are subject to RIF's; we're sub- 
ject to removal by the Merit Systems Protection Board, and this 
has been recognized at least ever since the Supreme Court case of 
Ramspeck, and that's in my complete statement. 

Thank you, sir. 

[The prepared statement of Judge Cleveland follows:] 



110 

Prepared Statement of Hon. Melpord Cleveland, President, Association of 
Administrative Law Judges, Inc. 



Mr. Chairman, 

I am Melford Cleveland, President of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, Inc. 
(the Association of AUs in the Social Security Administration), I am here today representing 
that organization, and not in any manner the Social Security Administration. 

I appreciate the opportunity of representing my Association before the Committee. I have 
completed 43 years of government service including military service and I am beginning my fifth 
year as President of our Association. 

I first learned about Congressman Callahan's concerns about the Mobile Office of 
Hearings and Appeals when he invited our officers to come to a meeting in his office. 

At that meeting I advised Congressman Callahan, and our Regional Chief Judge, Henry 
Watkins that the only thing our Association could do to help with the problem in Mobile was 
to ask our AUs nation-wide, to volunteer for temporary service in the Mobile office to move 
the back log. I made it clear that we could only go into the Mobile office in that manner if 
Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) management approved the plan and arranged the 
logistics. 

Later Judge Watkins requested that I ask for volunteer Judges, we got volunteers, more 
than were used, and we were thanked for our efforts by Judge Watkins. 

With the handicap of an inefficient management system, in my opinion our Judges over 
the years have performed well. SSA operates a system of mass justice. It has been described 
as the largest system of administrative adjudication in the Western world. The dilemma which 
this presents is how to deliver mass justice to a litigious society while using a system which is 
designed for individual case attention. Since the 1980's, the administrative law judges of SSA 
have established a commendable record while functioning under the pressure of these huge 



Ill 



workloads. In 1975 the average number of monthly case dispositions was 16 per administrative 
law judge. The staffing ratio was 2.9 to 1 . By FY 1992 the average case disposition per judge 
had incresed to 36.6 per month with a siaff ratio of 3.35 to 1 . This record shows that the judges 
increased their case dispositions by 128% while the staffing ratio has increased by only 1.55%. 
The judges had increased their case dispositions by 72% more than the increase in staff. By FY 
1995 the average monthly disposition had increased to 44 cases per judge, resulting in an new 
high mark of 526,743 case dispositions that year. This is a commendable performance in view 
of the fact that the cases have become more complex, more voluminous, require the use of more 
expert witnesses, have more attorney representation and are more time consuming. 

This admirable record has been accomplished by the judges without sacrificing the 
measure of due process provided to the claimant at each hearing. At one point in the early 
1980's, SSA attempted to apply undue influence on the judges in an effort to get them to deny 
more claims. This effort resulted in the case of Association of Administrative Law Judges v. 
Heckler . 594 F. Supp. 1132 (D.D.C. 1984), where the court found that the "unremitting focus 
on allowance rates... created an untenable atmosphere of tension and unfairness which violated 
the spirit of the APA, if no specific provision thereof." This contribution to public service by 
the SSA judges was recognized by the American Bar Association by an award that was dedicated 
to the judges in the agency. The citation provided as follows: 

Be It Resolved, that the American Bar Association hereby commends the Social Security 
Administrative Law 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's confidence in the fairness of governmental institutions and to uphold the rule of 



112 



the law. 

This is truly an outstanding record of accomplishment by a dedicated group of 
administrative law judges who have placed the rule of law and due process above their personal 
interest. They have placed their individual positions at risk to protect the rights of others to a 
fair due process hearing while at the same time deciding a huge number of claims. 

The reason that our Association and the Judges in the Mobile office could not do more 
to help the situation is because of the OHA management organization: 

The problem of a large backlog of cases pending decision writing, which has been raised 
as the subject matter of this hearing, is a systemic problem that is inherent within the current 
OHA hearing office management structure. Of all the agencies of the Federal government, none 
exerts a more direct influence on the lives of Americans than the Social Security Administration. 
More than 40 million retired and disabled individuals and their families depend on SSA for 
accurate and timely payment of monthly benefits. 

The current structure and location of OHA has even been questioned by the Agency. In 
a May 1981 Management Oversight Review Report on the Office of Hearings and Appeals and 
the Social Security Administration, the Office of Inspector General found that the appeals 
process could be more effectively located outside the Social Security Administration. The report 
highlighted the appearance of impropriety and the incongruity in having one arm of the Social 
Security Administration making the basic eligibility determinations in cases while the Office of 
Hearings and Appeals arm of the Social Security Administration adjudicates that decision. It 
went on to question the wisdom of the arrangement of putting the Office of Hearings and 
Appeals under the direction of an Associate Commissioner because the Social Security 
Administration staff controls the resources, space, equipment and supplies of the Office of 



113 



Hearings and Appeals which, if restricted, could indirectly control the number and quality of the 
hearings held. As late as February 27, 1996, the Chief Judge of the Dallas Region of SSA 
sounded a critical warning for OH A. He stated that "headquarters officials from both Woodlawn 
and Falls Church each conveyed a similar message: ' the hearings and appeals function is not 
performing in a satisfactory manner and its continuation in current form is in doubt'. Upon 
review, I am fully convinced that OHA is at risk." 

The basic problem of the OHA office management system relates back to a change in the 
management system that was adopted incrementally by the Agency in the early 1980's. Prior to 
that change, each administrative law judge was assigned a support staff consisting of a staff 
attorney, hearing assistant and clerk. Each judge had supervisory responsibility over their 
support staff personnel, including preparing performance evaluations. This system created a 
small homogenous unit around each judge that had interest and pride in the judge's work product 
and that had concern with the demands of public service. This system was replaced by the 
Agency in the early 1980's by a management structure known as "reconfiguration." Its main 
thrust was to remove certain functions from administrative law judge responsibility. This new 
system stripped all support staff from the judges and placed them in common office pools under 
the control of managers. The judges no longer had any supervisory control over any support 
staff personnel and the responsibility of preparing employee performance evaluations was given 
to the managers. This system has placed a third person (the manager) between each judge and 
their work product. Under this system, if a judge has a problem with any particular part of the 
work product or case, the judge must go to the manager for relief and not to the support staff 
person who is performing the work. If conflict develops between the judge and the manager, 
the support staff person will follow the direction of the manager and not the judge because the 



114 



manager has the control and the power over the staff person by having the authority to evaluate 
their work performance. This system has left the judge with all of the responsibility for the case 
but with no authority to accomplish the work effort. Reconfiguration has not only placed an 
encumbrance between the judge and the judge's work product, but it has also established a dual 
chain of management between the judges and managers. This dilution of the line of authority 
has obscured the chain of responsibility and has weakened the entire management structure. 

When most individuals are informed of the circumstances of this system, they cannot 
believe that it exists. Because of this management system, the judges in Mobile have had no 
authority to move the decisions along or expedite the decision writing process. After each judge 
renders a decision in a case, the case is then transferred to a pool of decision writers who are 
under the control of a supervisory staff attorney. From that point, the control of the work flow 
of the decision writing process is under the direction of the managers. The managers determine 
who will write each decision, when the decision will be written, and whether it will be written 
by personnel in the office or by personnel in another office. The judge does not again see the 
case until the decision appears in the form of a rough draft. The judge then has the responsibility 
to correctly the decision. But at times (in other offices) the managers have questioned the form, 
nature of, and necessity for the corrections and, on occasion, have refused to make them. 

It is, therefore, clear that the judges in the Mobile office, as in all OHA, have been 
stripped of their employee supervisory authority and are without power to effectuate any control 
over the decision writing process. The judges in the Mobile office were poweriess and could not 
assert any direction or control to correct the backlog in the cases pending decision writing. 

OHA has now further exacerbated the decision writing process by recently implementing 



115 



an initiative known as "Action #7." This initiative removed about 560 trained staff attorneys 
and paralegals from their support functions as decision writers for administrative law Judges and 
placed them in a role of claims adjudicators, in this role, they are to pay disability claims 
without judge supervision. This decision writing function of 560 writers was then replaced with 
about 170 writers from other components in the agency, many of whom were untrained. 

In written testimony before the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Ways and 
Means Committee, on May 23, 1995, the Association predicted that this initiative would have 
an adverse impact on claimants. The Association specifically stated that "This transfer of 
personnel will result in a reduction of support staff for the judges and will cause a backlog in 
the issuance of final written decisions after the hearing. Many of these writers are from the 
Appeals Council, and we believe that the Appeals Council will experience a case backlog from 
this transfer of personnel functions. The end result will be delay for claimants." 

Our prediction has been accurate. OHA now has a decision writing backlog of over 
43,000 cases and has started another initiative ("Jump Start") to address this problem. One of 
the elements of the initiative is to have judges write some of their decisions, while Action #7 
continues. We have now reached the absurd situation where staff attorneys are deciding cases 
and judges are writing decisions. 

The inefficient office management system that the agency has created is now showing 
"stress fractures" under the weight of the current huge case workload of over one half million 
cases. The accuracy of the Inspector General's warning regarding the danger of the agency 
controlling the resources, space, equipment and supplies of the administrative law judges is now 
becoming abundantly clear. The office management system of "reconfiguration" has created an 
inefficient process that is responsive to the managers and not the judges. The judges are the 



116 



only persons in the agency who are responsible for the cases, but are denied the authority to do 
their work. Under the current office management structure, the managers must be held 
accounuble for the collapse of ilie work flow process. The managers have the authority under 
this system and they must now shoulder the accountability. 

The only solution to this dilemma is to return to the "unit system" form of office 
management. The unit system is more efficient and will restore pride and personal interest of 
the support staff in the work product of the judge. It will allow the staff personnel to be directly 
responsible to the person for whom they are working. It will restore both the responsibility and 
authority in the judges and will provide them with the capacity to perform their job duties. The 
unit management system also implements the concept of "total quality management" which SSA 
has declared is its basic management tool. 

In summary, these matters should be kept in mind in appraising problems in OHA. 

1. OHA should never be surprised at the size of its backlog either locally or 
nationally, because OHA has a formula which it can apply to case receipts at the initial and 
reconsideration levels which permit it to calculate at any given time approximately what OHA 
case receipts will be 18 to 24 months later. 

2. As we have indicated, AU's in the Office of Hearings and Appeals have no 
control over their cases except at the time of the hearing, and when they sign the decision. 

3. In my opinion, based on my experience and observation in OHA, a real reason, 
in addition to the organization problems, for the Mobile situation is that the predecessors to the 



117 



Associate Commissioner in OHA, the Chief Judge and the Regional Chief Judge in Region IV 
took very little action about such problems. 

We do not believe that Congress, when 50 years ago this June enacted into law the 
Administrative Procedure Act, ever anticipated that an agency subject to the APA would 
organize its ALJ's along the "reconfigured" lines I have described. In any event, I believe it 
is appropriate on this 50th anniversary of the APA, which Congress considered in one form or 
another for approximately 10 years before enacting, to consider the background of the APA and 
the reasons for some of its provisions: 

Prior to the enactment of the Administrative Procedure Act hearing examiners', now 
AUs, classification was determined by the ratings the agency which employed them gave them, 
and their compensation and promotion depended upon their classification. They were thus 
subservient to and dependent on their agency. There were many complains about the actions 
of the hearing examiners. It was said that they were the tools of the agency and completely 
under the control of the agency heads in making their findings and recommendations. 

It must have been extremely frustrating and chaotic to a citizen who learned that a 
relatively new agency, filled with bureaucrats, had before it a question involving the citizen's 
property or other rights. The citizen would not know when or where the decision would be 
made, or by whom. He or she would not know where or how to present evidence favorable to 
the citizen, might not receive notice of the proceedings in a timely manner, and would have 
other questions about the proceedings. However, the citizen would eventually learn that the 



118 



persons in the agency who investigated the question initially might also prosecute the claim 
against the citizen, and these SAME AGENCY EMPLOYEES might eventually decide the case. 
Moreover, if the case was not decided the way the agency wanted it decided, the decision maker 
might never be promoted or might even lose his or her job. This was chaos and unfairness 
compounded. 

Another way that dissatisfaction was expressed was: "Where necessary information must 
be secured through oral discussion or inquiry, it is natural that parties should complain of a 
'government of men'. Where public regulation is not adequately expressed in rules, complaints 
regarding 'unrestrained delegation of Legislative authority' are aggravated. Where the process 
of decisions is not clearly outlined, charges of 'star-chamber proceedings' may be anticipated. 
Where the basic outlines of a fair hearing are not affirmatively set forth in procedural rules, 
parties are less likely to feel assured that opportunity for such a hearing is afforded". S. Doc. 
No. 8 77th Cong., 1st Sess. 24 (1941). 

Eventually leaders in both parties in the early 1930's realized that something should be 
done about this unfair situation. In 1937 a report from President Roosevelt's Committee on 
Administrative Management recommended separation of adjudicatory functions and personnel 
from investigative and prosecution personnel in the agencies. 

After World War n, in June 1946, the Administrative Procedure Act was unanimously 
enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Truman. As a demonstration of the Social 
Security administration's lead in the beginning in providing due process for our humble citizens, 
the APA was modeled on the Social Security Act. Richardson v. Perales 402 U.S. 389, 409 
(1971). In fact ALJs and the APA were the Alternative Dispute Resolution forum of the day, 
the answer to clogging the federal courts. 



119 



The APA was hailed as "a bill of rights for the hundreds of thousands of Americans 
whose affairs are controlled or regulated in one way or another by agencies of the Federal 
Government, and a long sought advance in democratic government... a comprehensive charter 
of private liberty and a solemn undertaking of official fairness. " (The APA and the Hearing 
Examiner, John W. Macy, Jr., Ch. U.S. Civil Service Commission, Fed. Bar Journal vol. 27 
No. 4, Fall, 1967, citing Senate Document 248, 79th Cong. 2d Sess. 291, 1946. It required 
rules for notice of the proceedings to all parties, and rotation of cases as much as is practicable. 
(We believe this latter requirement may be being violated according to recent testimony before 
Committee). 

According to John Macy, Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, 1967, the role of 
the hearing examiner in the APA was critical. He stated that "Even those who have since 
concluded that the Act neither created nor substantially altered a single government agency, 
nevertheless, believe that its hearing examiner provisions represented a significant advance in 
the development of fair procedure, and some believe that here the act accomplished the most 
decisive change... it marks the culmination of a long-term trend... to concentrate ever more 
closely on details of administrative procedure. Great attention thus comes to the examiner, the 
PIVOTAL FIGURE in administrative adjudication. 

The Hearing Examiner administers oaths and affirmations, issues subpoenas, and rules 
upon offers of proof and receives relevant evidence, takes or causes the taking of depositions, 
regulates the course of the hearing, holds conferences for the settlement or simplification of 
issues by consent of the parties, disposes of procedural requests or similar matters, questions 
witnesses, considers the facts in the record and arguments and contentions made, or questions 
involved, determines credibility and makes findings of fact and conclusions of law, recommends 



120 



decisions or makes initial decisions on the basis of reliable, probative, and substantial evidence 
on the record, and takes any other actions authorized by agency rule consistent with the 
provisions of the Act. (Sections 5, 7, 8 and 11, Adm. Proc. Act.) 

Only the hearing examiner, now ALJ, or the agency or some specially qualified and 
designated statutory officer may preside at the taking of evidence and the same person who 
presides if available must initially decide the case or certify the record with his or her 
recommendation. If the initial decision is not appealed, or reviewed by the agency within time 
limits, it becomes the final decision of the agency. All decisions with findings of fact and 
conclusions of law become part of the record, and the record is made exclusive for purposes of 
decision. These provisions are to make certain that those who sign decision are responsible for 
them, and that evidence and arguments of private parties are fully considered, that the views of 
the agency are not unduly emphasized or secretly submitted, and that the official record alone 
is the basis for the decisions. There are no secret or covert reasons for the decision, only those 
on the record are appealable to the Federal courts. 

The APA further provides that presiding and deciding officials must carry out their 
functions impartially, and may withdraw at any time if they deem themselves disqualified. 
Moreover, the hearing officer, ALJ, may not be responsible to or subject to the supervision of 
any person performing investigatory or prosecuting functions for any agency, and such person 
may not participate except as a witness or counsel in a public proceeding. Finally the hearing 
examiner is qualified, paid, and has tenure through the Merit Systems Protection Board and may 
not be removed except for good cause by the MSPB after opportunity for hearing. This 



121 



provision was designed along with the provision that the agency not make performance appraisal 
of the presiding official was to further insulate such official from the agency and improper 
influence and to assure greater fairness and objectivity. See Generally: The APA and the 
Hearing Examiner, by John W. Macy, Jr., Chairman, Civil Service Commission, Federal Bar 
Journal. Vol. 27, No. 4, Fall 1967; Ramspeck v. Federal Trial Examiners, 73 S.Ct. 570, 1953; 
Congressional Research Service, the Library of Congress, the Administrative Law Judge System, 
Floyd Lewis, American Law Division, September 9, 1982. 

In our view there are still problems with subtle control by the federal agencies and 
bureaucrats, and perceptions of agency control of AUs by the public: 

"As this has evolved there have been efforts to give independence to hearing officers and 
administrative law judges, but nevertheless, there are so many subtle, indirect ways, and direct 
ways by which administrative agencies and departments attempt to control their judges. And, 
basically this bill is a bill designed to prevent bureaucrats from controlling their judges. That's 
the basic issue, and its there throughout. 

I mention subtle ways. There are secretaries, parking spaces, all sorts of situations, and 
then there is the perception issue. I've had people who have been before administrative 
agencies, and after they finish a hearing, the agency prosecutor walks out with the administrative 
law judge and goes to lunch. That's just one way that there is a perception problem with the 
public." Statement of Senator Howell Heflin before the Subcommittee on Commercial and 
Administrative Law of the House Judiciary Committee, July 12, 1995, Serial No. 12. 

Finally, whatever comes or goes, whether an agency attempts to rule against citizens with 
just claims, or pay down the backlog, the Association of Administrative Law Judges will be 
eternally vigilant to see that our citizens receive fair hearings, and that due process of law is not 



122 



eroded in any manner. 

Although AUs may be removed from office for cause after a hearing and do not have 
lifetime tenure as we have heard some assert, there currently is no process to discipline ALIs 
for offenses short of removal. The Association of ALIs has advocated the adoption of ethical 
standards of conduct for administrative law judges as recommended by the American Bar 
Association. This standard of AU conduct should be government wide and not agency by 
agency. Chairman Gekas has a bill that would accomplish this goal. The history of agency and 
political pressure on decision making has made it clear that the agency should not be empowered 
to set standards for ALJs but an outside office of AUs or a corps of AUs should set the 
standards. 

The management of Social Security disability hearing offices is not controlled by AUs. 
The number of hearing decisions per AU reported by SSA is not controlled by the AU. AUs 
would advance seriously ill claimants on the docket and in the writing of the decision if they 
controlled these resources. If judges and not SSA managers controlled hearing offices, the 
injustices we have heard today would be addressed. Mr. Chairman, you have proposed 
legislation that would put AUs in control of the resources needed to process adjudications. We 
urge the changes in hearing office management be adopted by SSA. 

Recommendation of Association of AUs 

1. An independent body to enforce the APA with agencies - office of AUs or corps 

of AUs. 



123 



2. Government wide standard of conduct for adjudicatory officers as a measure for 
performance. 

3. Procedure for discipline in addition to removal of AU not controlled by agency. 

4. Put ALI's in charge of resources needed to conduct hearing process and control 
of managing the hearing process. 



124 



MANAGEMENT OF OFFICE OF HEARINGS AND APPEALS 
AT SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION 



I. FORMER OHA UNIT SYSTEM: 



ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE (ALJ) 



A. WRITER 

B. CLERK 

C. HEARING ASSISTANT 



2. CURRENT RECONFIGURATION SYSTEM: 



ALJs 




H.< 


3.M. 


H.O.C.A.L.J. 


■ 1 

MANAGER 




MA> 


r 1 """ 

AGER MANAGER 


WRllERS 




CLERKS 


HEARING ASSISTANTS 



*H.O.M.= HEARING OFFICE MANAGER 
*H.O.C.A.L.J.= HEARING OFFICE CHIEF ALJ 



125 

Mr. Gekas. We thank you, sir. This is very helpful, and it con- 
stitutes a good summation of the proceedings that we conducted 
here today. I think we're all the better for it. You answered my 
chief question concerning the independence of administrative law 
judges, not just by the written statement in which you incorporate 
some of the findings of the relevant cases, but also in your oral tes- 
timony. I'm fully satisfied and grateful to you for your appearance, 
your interest, and particularly the way you stepped in in the Mo- 
bile situation and — as acknowledged by Judge Watkins — that you 
helped, through your efforts with the association, to ameliorate 
that mess. 

Judge Cleveland. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

Mr. Gekas. I'm very appreciative of that. 

I yield to the gentleman from Rhode Island. 

Mr. Reed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to again thank 
Judge Cleveland for his always thoughtful comments and testi- 
mony. I applaud you and your association for how you have as- 
sisted by providing volunteers to go in and whittle down the case- 
load. What I would just suggest, too, is that among many of the 
revelations in this hearing — obviously, the administrative night- 
mare that you confront in the Social Security Administration; it 
was impressive to me that it's so confused — but the other aspect 
which Mr. Callahan was talking about, I think, raised the question 
of how we can constructively think about increased accountability 
for ALJ's in the system. And I would hope that your organization, 
your association, would help us with respect to that. 

Judge Cleveland. Congressman Reed, I was told not to talk 
about this too much, but other people have, and we really think 
that Congressman Gekas's bill, H.R. 1802, does provide for account- 
ability. It provides for discipline of the judges; it provides for stand- 
ards Government wide, and we've put a great deal of effort in that, 
as have many people in Congress. 

Mr. Gekas. Your last statement will not be stricken from the 
record. 

Judge Cleveland. Thank you, sir. 

Mr. Reed. I want full credit for eliciting another unpaid commer- 
cial for your bill, Mr. Chairman. [Laughter.] 

And I thank the judge. As always, it's a pleasure. 

Judge Cleveland. Thank you. 

Mr. Gekas. Thank you very much, Judge Cleveland. This hear- 
ing is adjourned. 

[Whereupon, at 12:22 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned.] 



APPENDIX 



Statement of Judge William A. Pope II, President, Federal 
Administrative Law Judges Conference 



I am Judge William A. Pope, II. President of the Federal Administrative Law Judges 
Conference (FALJC). FALJC is a voluntary professional association, organized almost 50 years 
ago for the purpose of improving the administrative judicial process, presenting educational 
programs to enhance the judicial skills of Administrative Law Judges, and representing concerns 
of Federal .A.dministrative Law Judges in maners affecting the administrative judiciary. The 
Conference has almost 500 members, including Judges from ever\' administrative agency which 
employs Administrative Law Judges. By vinue of our broad membership base. FALJC is the 
only organization which can speak for the broad spectrum of Federal Administrative Law Judges. 
Over the \ears. the Conference has taken leadership roles in preserving the decisional 
independence of .ALJs. supporting measures enhancing due process of law in administrative 
judicial proceedings, and in supporting improvements in the administrative judicial process. 

FALJC learned that concerns about the performance of the Social Security 
.Administration's Office of Hearings and .Appeals in Mobile. .Alabama had been e.xpressed by 
Congressman Sonny Callahan to this Subcomminee and were going to be the subject of an 
oversight hearing on April 19th. We did not prepare a statement for submission to the 
Subcommittee at that time because we were unaware of Rep. Callahan's specific concerns. 
However, due to the postponement of the hearing to June 5th. we were able to obtain a copy of 
Rep. Callahan's prepared statement and would like the opponunity to comment on his remarks. 
We request that our statement be included in the record of this hearing. 

Rep. Callahan's statement raises important concerns regarding the backlog of cases in the 
Mobile Oftlce of Hearings and .Appeals. F.ALJC does not have sufficient information to 
comment on the operation of the .Mobile Office. However, in reviewing the concerns raised by 
Rep. Callahan, we request that the Subcomminee keep in mind that the .Administrative Law 
Judges in .Mobile and elsewhere perform a vitally imponant function of insunng that citizens 
receive a fair and impartial hearing, presided over by an independent adjudicator, in cases of the 
utmost imponance to the individuals involved. Regardless of the problems which may be faced 
hy the .Mobile Office, the independence of the .ALJs there must be protected, not weakened, to 
preser\c this fairness and impaniality. 

Putting the role of the .ALJ in perspectue. Federal .Administrative Law Judges pert'orm a 
unique ludicial function within the E\ecuti\e Branch of the U.S. Government. They conduct 
formal trial-type hearings in cases arising under a wide variety of federal statutes and regulations, 
interpret the law. apply agency regulations, and issue written or oral initial or recommended 
decisions .ALJs are judges, in ever>- sense of the word, not underlings or subordinates. The U.S. 
-Siirreme Court has said that the role of an .Administrative Law Judse is "functionally 



(127) 



128 



comparable" lo that of federal trial judges. Butz v. Economou. 438 U.S. 478. 513 (1978). Just as 
in the federal trial couns, decisional independence of the judges who render decisions in the 
administrative judicial process is the single most imponant element of due process of law and is 
the key to the public's perception of justice in the administrative hearing process. Under the 
Administrative Procedure Act and other federal statutes. ALJs have complete decisional 
independence, and to protect that independence ALJs have absolute appointments, are not subject 
to agency efficiency ratings, promotions or demotions, and "have tenure very similar to that 
provided for Federal judges under the constitution." Sen. Rep. No. 95-697, 95th Cong. Isl Sess. 
2 (1978), reprinted in 1978 U.S. Code Cong. & .Admin. News 496, 497. 

There are over 1300 .ALJs assigned to about 30 federal agencies. The agency employing 
by far the largest number -- over 1050 -- is the Social Security Administration. The Department 
of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board each employ about 60 ALJs. The remaining 
.ALJs are employed by agencies with 1 to 20 judges. .Administrative Law Judges adjudicate 
cases falling into three broad categories: regulatory cases; entitlement cases: and enforcement 
cases. Their decisions directly affect the lives of far more Americans than do the decisions of all 
the U.S. District Courts. It is estimated that ALJs hear as many as four times the number of 
cases heard by the U.S. District Court Judges, and they do so more swiftly and at lower cost. 
.Administrative Law Judges play a vital role in ensuring that American citizens receive due 
process of law from their Government. 

F.ALJC strongly endorses the concept that .ALJs must be given the support they need by 
the agency by which they are employed to handle the caseload of that agency. It is our 
understanding that the Social Security Administration receives over 500,000 new cases for 
hearing a year. The numbers of cases involved here are staggering. It is impossible for an .ALJ 
to hear 45-50 cases a month and issue written decisions in approximately the same number, as 
SSA .Administrative Law Judges average, without the support of an efficient clerical staff to 
process the cases and get them ready for hearing, and staff anomeys (i.e.. law clerks) to assist the 
ludge in drafting uxitten decisions in accordance with the judge's instructions. 

In regard to the issues raised by Rep. Callahan in his April 19. 1996 wrinen statement 
presented to the Subcommittee, tlrsi, .Administrative Law Judges do not have lifetime 
appointments. They are subject to reductions in force, and agencies may bring disciplinary 
procedings 'oefore the .Merit Systems Protection Board where several remedies, including 
removal from office, may be imposed for good cause (see 5 U.S.C. §7521). This system does 
provide an efl'ective means of disciplining .ALJs in appropriate instances and a significant 
r.umber of actions against .ALJs have been brought before MSPB over the >ears. That removal 
of sitting .ALJs may be difficult is as it should be. forjudicial independence is illusory if .ALJs 
can be removed for anything other than egregious conduct or job performance. Nevenheless. it 
seems clear that, absent exiraordinar>- circumstances, good cause would exist to remove a Social 
Securitv .Administration .ALJ issuing only one decision a month for two years. 

In addition, although SS.A .ALJs may write some of their own decisions, no judge can 
hear, decide and write decisions in 45 cases a month 1 2 months a year. That is why SS.A 
provides decision writers for its .ALJs. whose job it is to draft decisions under the .ALJs' 



129 



direction. Expecting Social Security Administration ALJs to dispose of an increased number of 
cases while writing all or most of their own decisions is more than is humanly possible and 
would seriously compromise the ALJs' ability to provide fair, well-reasoned decisions. 

Finally, only hearings before judges with full decisional independence can provide both 
the reality and the public perception of fairness necessary for litigants to have confidence in the 
adjudication process. Having cases decided by ALJs, who have survived a rigorous competitive 
process leading to their selection, assures a high quality of decisions. \\''hen more than a decade 
ago SS.A attempted to influence its ALJs to reduce the number of cases in which benefits were 
awarded, the ALJs had the decisional independence to stand their ground and challenge the 
agency's actions, drawing the praise of the courts {see. e.g.. Barry v. Bowen, 825 F.2d 1324, 
1330-31 (9th Cir. 1989; Association of Administrative Law Judges v. Heckler, 594 F. Supp 1 132. 
1 141-43 (D.D.C. 1984) and an award from the Amencan Bar Association. 

We thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to be heard in this maner. 

o 



26-052 (136) 



BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY 

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