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Supreme Court Ruling May Impact SSA ALJs

2018 June 21
by Steve Perrigo

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the SEC’s appointment process of administrative law judges (ALJs) is unconstitutional.

The justices found, by a vote of 7-2, that an SEC ALJ was not lawfully appointed. Instead, as Officers of the United States, SEC ALJs should be appointed by the President, courts of law, or heads of departments under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, according to the ruling.

It is unclear how the decision will impact the Social Security Administration and its ALJs. The court’s decision raises the question as to whether the appointments of ALJs functioning through the SSA are constitutional. As a result of Lucia v. SEC, individuals who have been denied benefits through the SSA’s current disability determination process may be able to challenge the ALJ’s decision on their cases.

It remains open whether the SSA will take immediate action in response to this case to alter its processes. However, it is possible the federal agency will need to consider altering its procedure to ensure it comes under compliance with the Appointments Clause. The ruling may elevate ALJ independence from the SSA. However, a revised appointment process may introduce more partisan elements to the role of ALJs within the SSDI program.

Allsup will continue to monitor developments from today’s announcement.

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