President Trump has issued an Executive Order that takes away the independence of Administrative Law Judges by allowing them to be arbitrarily selected by political appointees. For people who have been denied Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) play a critical role in determining whether they are in fact entitled to those benefits.
Currently, ALJs must go through a competitive examination and selection process open to all applicants. This process not only ensures that ALJs are qualified and experienced individuals who are able to meet the demands of the ALJ position, but also allows ALJs to decide cases fairly, without partisan interference, and without fear of potentially losing their jobs for not making decisions that favor the whims of one party or another. Under the President’s Executive Order, the only qualification now needed for a person to become an ALJ is that they are licensed to practice law. This sets up the potential for people to be hired primarily because of their political connections or party affiliation.
Over 85 percent of ALJs in the federal government work at the Social Security Administration, with others working in important agencies such as Health and Human Services (which decides Medicare cases) and the Department of Labor, among others. Politically appointed, and potentially inexperienced, ALJs will be more likely to decide cases based on the preferences of the party in power rather than the rule of law. This means many people seeking decisions about important claims, such as whether they are eligible for federal benefits, will be less likely to have their claim heard by a fair, experienced, and impartial ALJ. In the current administration, which is hostile towards federal benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance, this would likely lead to a greater number of inappropriate denials of crucial benefits.
We oppose the President’s Executive Order and urge you to contact your Congress Member and ask them to stop the Administration’s efforts to deny the people in our communities their benefits, and the right to fair and impartial decisions.