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ALJs and Hearing Support Staff Exempt From Federal Hiring Freeze

2017 March 29
by Steve Perrigo

Three important groups of Social Security Administration employees have been added to the list of government roles exempt from the federal hiring freeze, which was authorized by President Trump on Jan. 23.

The exemptions cover SSA’s administrative law judges (ALJs), hearing support staff, and processing center employees, according to a report from Federal News Radio. These exemptions are critical as the SSA attempts to address the worsening disability hearing backlog that currently stands at over 1 million pending claims.

Average nationwide hearing processing time is now at 578 days, which is in addition to the wait time incurred at the initial application and reconsideration levels. Some of the hearing offices with the longest processing times are in New York City (707 days), South Jersey (719 days), Greensboro (720 days) and Miami (773 days).

Federal agencies could request hiring exemptions from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for areas not included in the agency’s initial guidance in January.

The freeze is the first step in a 90-day assignment for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, with the OPM, to create a long-term plan for reducing the overall size of the federal workforce. In a move that appears related, the OPM has issued the “Workforce Reshaping Operations Handbook,” which outlines steps for federal agencies and their internal departments in coordinating a reduction in force.

If the OMB satisfies the executive order, a long-term plan could be announced by April 24. Allsup will continue to monitor these developments.

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