National Press Club

Case load quotas impede decisions on disability claims, Judge Frye says at NPC

April 21, 2013 | By Marie Robey Wood | marierwood@hotmail.com

Hon. Randall Frye, President of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, discusses case load quotas at a NPC Newsmaker, April 19, 2013.

Hon. Randall Frye, President of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, discusses case load quotas at a NPC Newsmaker, April 19, 2013.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Imposing case quotas on federal administrative law judges can erode the quality of their decisions on disability claims, Randall Frye, a federal administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration in Charlotte, N.C., said at a National Press Club Newsmaker on April 19.

“Our caseloads everywhere have increased," said Frye, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges. The quotas mean that "judges have to process cases – regardless of their complexity – in a finite period of time."

It is particularly difficult in the disability courts, ``where for the last four or five years, the requests for hearings have far outnumbered the capability and ability of the administrative judiciary to actually process or adjudicate these cases,” he said.

The law judge association was forced to file a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois U.S. District Court asking the court to enjoin the use of quotas in the decision-making process, Frye said, adding “we've laid out a good case.''

The imposition of quotas was first implemented by the prior Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue, he said. Frye said he is hopeful the appointment of a new Social Security Administration commissioner will bring someone with a vision to address the problem.

The disability courts also have a system where the judge represents the claimant, the government and the agency of the law, Frye said.

“Judges have to wear three hats, a burden that has increased because of court laws,” he said. “This is a heck of an obligation and responsibility that takes time.”

To address this, Frye said he advocates a system where government representatives would be there solely to seek justice and would get the judge all information that he or she needs to make the right decision at the right time and as early as possible.

Frye also proposed more rules of procedure that would force the attorneys to get everything filed in a timely manner, and said there is also a need for open hearings.

“Judges feel that the courts should be open for close scrutiny,” he said.

Frye's final suggestion for cutting costs: Eliminate one of the two offices that the Social Security Administration has currently in every region, and transfer those resources into hiring more judges and staff.

Duplication of offices “is a luxury our government cannot afford,'' he said.