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ALJ vacancies controversy Re: “ Feud over ALJ bench openings festers” � As an administrative law judge with 25 1/2 years of experience at the Social Security Administration, and as the first woman elected to the board of directors of the Association of Administrative Law Judges and former chair of the association’s legislative committee, I can only say that these are the same issues we have been dealing with for the entire time of my tenure. We have made one step forward only to take two steps back. Judge Tela Gatewood’s comments concerning staffing are correct, but should be augmented by pointing out that we are top heavy with management and the ratio includes the regional management staff and the hearing office staff, thus distorting the figures for the actual number of people available to do the work to support each individual administrative law judge. In 2001, the agency revamped the way it assigned support staff to the judges and, en masse, promoted staff to higher grade positions, many of whom were not capable of performing the work of the new job. We are now living with that and with the lack of judges, many of whom have retired because they are unable to handle the transition to an electronic environment. Moreover, the electronic disability folder has substantially slowed the review process, as it takes longer to review a claim file in preparation for hearing and for decision. All in all, we are in desperate need of new judges. In my office alone (Hartford, Conn.), we have only four judges in an office designated for six and, according to statistics recently published by the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR), the processing time in my office is 477 days. I know of attorneys, members of the private bar, who are qualified to become ALJs but who did not file their applications in time to make the cutoff point of 1,250 applications, largely because that cutoff coincided with the semi-annual convention of NOSSCR. It makes one wonder whether it was timed to prevent qualified private bar applicants from having any chance at all. In sum, SSA is again in crisis mode as it was when I was appointed in 1981 and as it has been during the 25 years of my service. But the ALJ selection process should not be tailored to SSA, nor should SSA employees be given advance notice, simply because SSA employs the largest number of ALJs among the 29 or 30 agencies that do employ them. Above all else, the process must be above reproach. Joyce Krutick Craig Hartford, Conn.

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