Administrative Law Judges Sue Social Security Administration Over Quotas
In a federal lawsuit filed on April 18, 2013, the Association of Administrative Law Judges challenged the Social Security Administration and its imposition of an agency-wide quota requiring all Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to decide 500 to 700 cases per year. This lawsuit has sparked controversy throughout the Social Security disability world. ALJs are hired independently from the Social Security Administration and are required to make an impartial, independent decision so as to protect the interest of taxpayers and ensure fair hearings for claimants. Any quota imposed by the Social Security Administration would diminish that autonomy and increase Social Security Administration’s power over the decisions of ALJs.
In the lawsuit, the ALJs argued that such a quota prevented them from devoting the time needed for more complex cases; thereby causing the ALJs to approve cases which would have been denied had a more thorough decision process been applied. The ALJs also argued that the quota infringes upon their statutory decisional independence from the Social Security Administration. The complaint filed by the ALJs claimed that ALJs whose workload had not met the Social Security Administration’s standards were subject to reprimands such as counseling, threats, and intimidation.
On February 26, 2014, the ALJ’s lawsuit against the Social Security Administration was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, or in other words, because the Federal District Court did not have the authority to decide a case of this subject matter. The reason for such a dismissal lies in the fact that the ALJs sued the Social Security Administration under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). However, United States District Court Judge Sharon Coleman held that administrative employees, such as the ALJs, must exhaust their administrative remedies under the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) and cannot sue for relief under the APA. Judge Coleman found that the CSRA is the exclusive means of redressing employment disputes even when the statute would provide no relief for the ALJs. Judge Coleman stated that the ALJs could find relief through the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, who has the power to investigate a change in working conditions motivated by improper reasons.
As of April 28, 2014, the Association of Administrative Law Judges has appealed the motion to dismiss to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. That appeal is still pending.
For help navigating the difficult process towards your Social Security disability benefits, contact an experienced Social Security disability attorney at Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. today at 251-343-1111 for a free case evaluation. Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. represents Social Security disability claimants in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana at all levels of the disability process from initial application to appeals to Federal Court.