The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently began withholding the identity of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned to hear an applicant’s appeal, apparently to discourage advocates from shopping for an ALJ who more regularly issues favorable determinations.

The practical effect of the new policy is that attorneys representing applicants must guess as to how to prepare a case and hope that it is tailored to the particular ALJ’s preferences. No two ALJs are the same, and understanding their preferences allowed advocates to present cases in a manner suited to the ALJ, saving both the ALJ and the applicant time, and allowing the ALJ to arrive more quickly at the dispositive factual issues at hearing.

The SSA’s new policy is quite clearly to the disadvantage of the applicant and more than likely will cost the SSA in terms of efficiency, as advocates will be less able to assist the ALJ in making a speedy determination.

Further, shielding the identity of the ALJ until the last minute makes SSI/SSDI hearings a unique forum and raises due process questions. No similar policy is instituted in state or federal court, and in few other administrative forums.

Attorneys at Hawks Quindel, S.C. are experienced in all areas of disability law, including Social Security Disability claims. If you have a question regarding your Social Security Disability claim, please contact us for a free consultation.

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David Zoeller