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Administrative Law Judges Giving Process Its Due

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When federal agencies like the Social Security Administration (SSA), National Labor Relations Board, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and others decide cases in their areas of expertise, the public wants to know that the decisions are fair and impartial. Administrative law judges (ALJs) are adjudicators who support their agencies by holding hearings, gathering and ruling on evidence, hearing and evaluating witnesses, issuing subpoenas, regulating the course of the legal proceedings, and preparing an initial or recommended decision for final agency action in an individual case. Today, about 1,400 ALJs serve in some thirty agencies of the federal government. Congress and the bureaucracy need to better support the work of ALJs. Congress has underfunded SSA housekeeping expenditures for many years, forcing its ALJs to work through their backlog of disability cases with fewer staffers.

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