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question ssa jobs (hearing office vs appeals council)

Which SSA attorney adviser job do you think is better (heari legaleagle22307/15/18
Well, if you have the choice betweent a permanent and a term downwardslope07/16/18
Thanks-so if you had the option to jump ship to the AC, woul legaleagle22307/16/18
I don’t live in the DC area so the AC makes no sense for m downwardslope07/16/18
Why the need to live near falls church I wonder? They don't onehell07/16/18
At the AC, there is usually no overtime from October through govlaw07/16/18
Appreciate it--so it is 16 hours of ot per week at the AC? legaleagle22307/16/18
When offered, it is 16 hours on the weekend. The production govlaw07/16/18
@govlaw about to start at AC, are bonuses annual? for raises lawyermom107/16/18
Bonuses are annual, but I didn’t get one until my third ye govlaw07/16/18
what are the bonuses? legaleagle22307/16/18
Don’t worry about it too much. Based on your performance a govlaw07/16/18
They are sometimes offered at the hearing level as well, but downwardslope07/17/18
When you talk about "prestige" at the Appeals Council, does legaleagle22307/21/18
Most of the cushy non-supervisory GS-14 positions are in DC. downwardslope07/23/18
legaleagle223 (Jul 15, 2018 - 9:17 pm)

Which SSA attorney adviser job do you think is better (hearings level atty adviser or appeals council atty adviser)? Apparently, the atty advisers at the hearing level work overtime year round, which should bump up the salary significantly (putting the yearly salary possibly up into the 120k and above range). Is overtime at the appeals council steady like at the hearing level (year round if you want it)? Can you expect a similar salary at the appeals council (or would the hearings level generally make more due to the ot)? What about job security? If the backlog goes away, do they shut down some offices and lay off attorneys?

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downwardslope (Jul 16, 2018 - 7:13 am)

Well, if you have the choice betweent a permanent and a term, I’d pick the permanent option because there is no telling what will happen. I don’t think that hearings level attorneys generally make more due to OT. If the choice is between NCAC and AC, hands down AC is the better choice. The AC is generally more prestigious. At the NCAC, I would be the most worried about a layoff because there may be fewer cases sent there once the hearing offices are staffed.

I don’t know where you got the impression that OT is steady at the hearings office, because it is not. In my office, we get an email that OT is available for X and Y days and have to sign up for it. We are allowed 18 hours a week, but some months, we may only get one 8-hour window on a Saturday or Sunday when OT is available. I think it really depends on the region and how close it is to making the monthly disposition goal. If the region is close or over, it isn’t going to offer much overtime, but if it is way off, I find that we might end up with a few weekend days and maybe even weekday overtime. At the NCAC, the OT is going to depend on how much is actually sent to the NCAC, which is also going to go down when there are more AAs in the hearing offices.

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legaleagle223 (Jul 16, 2018 - 10:53 am)

Thanks-so if you had the option to jump ship to the AC, would you take it? I am guessing you are permanent (maybe GS 12 or 13) at the hearings level? That is, the work is drying up at the hearings level, and to avoid a layoff, you jump ship to the AC?

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downwardslope (Jul 16, 2018 - 1:46 pm)

I don’t live in the DC area so the AC makes no sense for me. The AC is generally considered more prestigious, so it’s really up to you if you want to go there. In the past, they have reassigned people to be decision writers that were recent (non-permanent) hires to the AC. So whether that will happen again is anyone’s guess. Many of the internal postings that come up are for the AC only. If you are already in the DC area, it’s probably a good choice, but GS-12 isn’t all that great in DC. If the choice is between the DC area and someplace else with a lower cost of living (which is most places), going with the other office could be better.

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onehell (Jul 16, 2018 - 5:02 pm)

Why the need to live near falls church I wonder? They don't do any hearings there, they just make decisions on the record (which is already stored electronically) and if there's to be another hearing it would be on remand to the ALJ which could be out of any ODAR office in the country.

Feels like it ought to be a work-from-home type of gig. Just sit at home cranking out recommended decisions all day, make any corrections the judge wants and move on to the next. Why one needs to physically go to an office to do that in 2018, idk.

Also, why do they offer OT at all? Attorneys are categorically exempt from FLSA and they're not exactly in a favorable bargaining position w/r/t supply and demand, particularly not in the DC area.

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govlaw (Jul 16, 2018 - 7:42 am)

At the AC, there is usually no overtime from October through January, then intermittent in the spring, and pretty steady over the summer. It is optional and you have to request to work it like you would request leave. I have only ever seen weekend overtime the last three years. It is 16 hours total maximum. Sure, you could work all those hours every week, but you would also burn out and have a hard time with productivity goals. I don’t work it every weekend it’s available for that reason.

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legaleagle223 (Jul 16, 2018 - 7:04 pm)

Appreciate it--so it is 16 hours of ot per week at the AC? Are they big on meeting the quota at the AC, or is it a laid back and relaxed atmosphere? How many cases a day do you need to complete to meet the quota at the AC? Thanks again.

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govlaw (Jul 16, 2018 - 7:09 pm)

When offered, it is 16 hours on the weekend. The production minimum for your first two years is 70%, which is 1.5 denials a day. Most people find this fairly easy to meet. However, to get bonuses and consideration for promotions, you have to work faster. I have to finish 2-3 cases a day to meet my own goals.

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lawyermom1 (Jul 16, 2018 - 7:39 pm)

@govlaw about to start at AC, are bonuses annual? for raises, are step increases automatic assuming you meet production requirements? how quickly can you go to GS 12 from 11?

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govlaw (Jul 16, 2018 - 10:07 pm)

Bonuses are annual, but I didn’t get one until my third year because I wasn’t eligible yet.

Gs 11 to 12 is automatic after a year. Step increases are every year after for the first few years, but become more infrequent. The opm website explains it more. It takes 18 years to go through all the steps at a given grade.

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legaleagle223 (Jul 16, 2018 - 10:11 pm)

what are the bonuses?

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govlaw (Jul 16, 2018 - 10:35 pm)

Don’t worry about it too much. Based on your performance appraisal, boss nominates you, if the agency has extra money. $500-$2000, also there are step increase bonuses and annual leave bonuses (rare).

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downwardslope (Jul 17, 2018 - 7:16 am)

They are sometimes offered at the hearing level as well, but with the new quota system, it is very hard to get high enough to be considered. I am not sure we had anyone who was eligible last year. It really depends on your judges (how easy the instructions are to read/interpret), how long the files are, and whether you get favorable or unfavorable decisions. Someone in an office with mostly 400-page files is going to have a much better chance than someone who is in an office with lots of 1000+ page files.

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legaleagle223 (Jul 21, 2018 - 8:41 am)

When you talk about "prestige" at the Appeals Council, does that mean the job is a straight path to Appeals Judge or other cushy GS-14+ job in the agency? So, if you are already a GS-13 in the govt, would you take a loss in step to go to the AC with the expectation you will get your 13 back quickly and move up higher (i.e., 14 spot or judge spot)? With the overtime, the pay would be roughly equivalent to a 13, so you wouldn't really be taking too much of a pay hit leaving the 13 job (assuming you can count on steady overtime at the Appeals Council-is that correct)? Thank you again.

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downwardslope (Jul 23, 2018 - 9:18 am)

Most of the cushy non-supervisory GS-14 positions are in DC. Again, I have no interest in DC and I think a lot of people don’t want to go to DC. Plus, there is no guarantee that if you take the AC, you will ever make it out of GS-12. So you lose a lot of income if you are already a GS-13. It makes absolutely no sense to go from a GS-13 to an 11 in the AC if you had to work OT (only intermittently available) in order to make what you were making as a 13 working 37.5 hours a week. There is a long discussion about this on another board and the opinion universally is that it is stupid to go from a writer position to the AC since it is usually only a GS-11 position at the AC.

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