In a move that surprised even the ALJs who hear cases, the Social Security Administration decided last year that claimants and attorneys would not be told which ALJ had been assigned to hear the case until they arrived at the hearing. This caused many problems, raised legal issues and generally resulted in more work for the attorneys, the ALJ’s and Social Security. Social Security had to assign several full-time employees to the task of processing the large number of FOIA requests that attorneys were submitting to obtain the name of the ALJ assigned to the case. Some hearings had to be postponed (more delay for everyone, especially the claimant) because a case had been assign to an ALJ who was prohibited from hearing the case for one reason or another. There was no way to prepare the client for the individual personality of the ALJ that they were going to appear before and no way for the attorney to prepare the case according to the personal preference of the ALJ.
Today, as promised, the mystery ALJ policy has ended. I obtained my hearing office status sheet online this morning and every case that has been assigned to an ALJ listed the ALJ’s name.