“These are people who are desperate,” Judge Marilyn Zahm, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges union, said. “There may be a hiring freeze on federal employment, but there’s no freeze on people getting older, people getting sicker, people having injuries and accidents, and people needing disability insurance.”
The amount of beneficiaries in the program has grown significantly in recent years. Whereas fewer than 2.5 percent of working-age citizens received benefits in 1990, more than 5 percent did in 2015. Last year the Social Security Administration announced that it wanted to grow the ranks of judges to 1,900 by the end of fiscal year 2018 to accommodate for the increasing number of applicants.
That may be impossible now that President Trump, in one of his first executive actions, has imposed a federal civilian employee hiring freeze. President Trump’s order allows agencies to exempt staff needed for “national security or public safety responsibilities,” and also authorizes the director of the Office of Personnel Management to grant exemptions. The order further requires the Office of Management and Budget to develop a plan within 90 days for shrinking the workforce, and states that the blanket freeze will expire once that plan is implemented.
Judge Zahm said that many judges have been working extra uncompensated hours every day to try to get through the outstanding cases, some of which require reviewing over 1,000 pages of medical records as well as experts’ assessments. “This is not a job where you should be doing slapdash work,” she said. “People’s lives, livelihoods, are at stake.”
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®