Social Security Disability and SSI claimants (and their representatives) are going to be hamstrung and disadvantaged by a new policy instituted by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) effective December 19, 2011 where the identity of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned to a claimant's case will not be disclosed until the time of the hearing. Apparently, the rationale for this new policy is to stop the alleged practice of some advocates who, ODAR claims, "forum shop" to avoid particular ALJs in video hearings and as a reaction to recent attention about "outlier" ALJs with high allowance rates.
This new policy will impair our ability to represent claimants to the best of our ability and will also impair our ability to assist ODAR by meeting the needs of individual ALJs. Different judges benefit from different preparation by representatives, but also some need more time than others, some need claimants to be prepared in different ways, some need written arguments in advance, etc. Knowing the identity of the ALJ involves due process rights. The ability to fully prepare for a hearing requires knowledge of the identity of the ALJ hearing the case. The policy change is an incredible disservice to claimants who rely on counsel to prepare them for hearings. They want to know how the hearing will proceed, who will question them, what areas the ALJ will explore, what the questions are likely to be. They deserve to know what information is important to the specific judge, so they are prepared to answer the judge's questions. More information on this policy change will be posted as developments unfold.
If you need more information about a personal injury matter (car wreck, boating accident, slip and fall, etc.), Social Security Disability or SSI matter, EEOICPA claim, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611, or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Morristown, Maryville, Rogersville, Dandridge, Tazewell, New Tazewell, Jefferson City, Strawberry Plains, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Loudon, Kingston, Halls, Maynardville, Crossville, Cookeville, Jamestown, Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, LaFollette, Lake City, Jacksboro, Bean Station, Cosby, Newport, White Pine, Mosheim, Wartburg, Sunbright, Pigeon Forge, and Deer Lodge.