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Social Security judges can no longer be kept a secret

A recent policy that allowed the Social Security Administration to keep the names of administrative law judges secret before hearings has been reversed. Now, ALJs must be revealed to the claimant and counsel before they go to court, something that should make the fight for Social Security disability benefits somewhat easier.

While SSA claimed this was due to legal representatives trying to pick the judge they liked so they could more easily gain benefits, there have been many problems caused by the rule. As of April 20, it will no longer be in effect, as the names of the ALJs assigned to each case must be provided to the attorney and the client.

The final straw that ended this rule happened after multiple Freedom of Information Act requests came to the SSA asking for names of ALJs assigned to cases, with one case ending with the claimant being awarded with the money for legal fees, as well as the name of the judge assigned to their case.

“The secret judge policy was never a good idea or fair to claimants,” Harold W. Conick said. “Not only did the policy complicate the hearing scheduling process, but it put claimants at a disadvantage at the hearing. Since every judge varies in their conduct of the hearing, counsel’s knowledge of such variation enables a claimant to be better prepared for the hearing process.”

Attorney Harold W. Conick is well acquainted with numerous SSA Judges in the Chicago Metropolitan hearing offices as well as hearing offices in downstate Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.