Remembering TCPaul, 2016-2019

SSA Attorney Advisors - When did you start overtime after being hired?

Was it pretty quickly? How many in your office(s) do it? How cratercity02/11/19
Not sure if it varies by office, but at OHO it is 12 or more hopelesslyunemployed02/11/19
In my office it is available daily- at least 2 hours, and on downwardslope02/11/19
The OT issue aside, overall how is the AA job at SSA working catwoman33303/30/19
How bad are these jobs? underemployedlawyer04/05/19
They post the same job ads every year or so, soliciting hund catwoman33304/05/19
So if people leave these jobs they must have developed a mar underemployedlawyer04/05/19
SSD is a very tough living for a solo. 100% contingent fee, catwoman33304/05/19
Catwoman, you continue to post false information. The hearin downwardslope04/05/19
It's NOT "false" information. Job ads were posted on USAjob catwoman33304/05/19
So what work do people who leave SS positions go into? underemployedlawyer04/05/19
A large percentage of SSA attorney advisors transfer to the john0904/05/19
Where can ssa AAs with litigation experience — such as mys lawst04/05/19
What does HHS do that they have decision writers for? Never underemployedlawyer04/05/19
Medicare appeals. catwoman33304/05/19
Ahh I see. Curious do states have something similar for Medi underemployedlawyer04/05/19
They would have ALJs or hearing officers, but they typically downwardslope04/05/19
There are quite a few decision writing positions at HHS. The john0904/05/19
I believe they will hire quite a few more attorneys in the f downwardslope04/05/19
Do you know where these hhs decision writers jobs are physic underemployedlawyer04/05/19
The job is a double edged sword. On one hand, after 7 years lawst04/05/19
To be fair, most legal jobs are routine, repetitive, monoton john0904/05/19
You’re correct but this job is more so than others I’ve lawst04/05/19
Do they ever make decision writers into ALJs? Seems like the underemployedlawyer04/05/19
There is a separate process for selection of aljs. Unfortuna lawst04/05/19
I met one SSA judge who said she worked as a DW before becom catwoman33304/05/19
Yes, but keep in mind that even in training in the past, som downwardslope04/05/19
Downwardslope, you continue to post "false" information...:) catwoman33304/05/19

cratercity (Feb 11, 2019 - 8:15 am)

Was it pretty quickly? How many in your office(s) do it? How many hours can you do? Thanks

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hopelesslyunemployed (Feb 11, 2019 - 10:12 am)

Not sure if it varies by office, but at OHO it is 12 or more hours a week (available every week year round in my experience—can work ot during week or weekend from home until you hit cap on hours

Also there may be a rule that you can’t make over a certain amount of money a year (something like can’t exceed gs 15 last step or ses salary limit-not sure

Some folks decision writers pull down in excess of 130-140k a year with the ot

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downwardslope (Feb 11, 2019 - 12:29 pm)

In my office it is available daily- at least 2 hours, and on weekends in 4-hour intervals up to 18 hours weekly. I think you are eligible once you are at production, so if you are meeting your DWPI numbers at 7 months, you should be able to start then. I would say it is not hugely popular in my office, but to be fair I don’t think many people knew that weekday overtime was available everyday until a few weeks ago, so that might very well be changing. We also had issues for a while where they were assigning unfavorable cases, which turned people off because many people didn’t want to do have to do 8-10 hours of OT to finish a case in a week.

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catwoman333 (Mar 30, 2019 - 1:22 pm)

The OT issue aside, overall how is the AA job at SSA working out for you? Do you think you will want to stick with it for more than a year or so? I hear AA turnover/burnout rates are very high and most people quit after a year or so, esp. given the GS 12 pay ceiling and increasing production goals.

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underemployedlawyer (Apr 5, 2019 - 10:35 am)

How bad are these jobs?

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catwoman333 (Apr 5, 2019 - 12:45 pm)

They post the same job ads every year or so, soliciting hundreds of applicants, yet the case "backlogs" always seem to remain ridiculously high. I think that answers your Q.

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underemployedlawyer (Apr 5, 2019 - 12:47 pm)

So if people leave these jobs they must have developed a marketable skill. Where do they go? Can’t imagine SS private practice given if people want to be on. SS thry probably don’t have money to pay lawyers

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catwoman333 (Apr 5, 2019 - 12:53 pm)

SSD is a very tough living for a solo. 100% contingent fee, like PI. For every 10 people you sign as clients, you are lucky to win 2 of those claims. And you have to wait 2+ years for hearings, then another 4-6 months to get paid. It only pays for big national companies who can afford to play the high volume game, have tons of $$ for advertising, sign everyone and his dog as clients, then roll the dice in hearings to see which cases pay off. Also, SSD solo attys are a dime a dozen and forced to compete with non-attys and big non-atty companies for business. You can make more $$ more quickly selling lemonade in the Mojave Desert.

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downwardslope (Apr 5, 2019 - 1:00 pm)

Catwoman, you continue to post false information. The hearing offices hadn’t hired anyone from around 2010 to 2017 and then they posted tons of positions to fill the empty slots that had been vacated over 7 years of not hiring anyone. In that time, many people got promoted to senior attorney, regional office, ALJ, etc. Yes, they have regular hiring in the NHCs, RCACs, and NCACs, but the vast majority of the people at SSA are in hearing offices where the turnover is relatively low. Meanwhile, many offices had hiring pushes for ALJs, so the ratio of ALJs to writers was disproportionate. It is supposed to be between 1.5-2 writers per judge but many offices had fewer than one writer per judge even after the 2017 hiring wave.

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catwoman333 (Apr 5, 2019 - 1:09 pm)

It's NOT "false" information. Job ads were posted on USAjobs last year (2018), yes for NHC, NCAC but also for hiring in MULTIPLE cities throughout the country, and interviews were conducted from many local SSA offices, including St. Louis who was so desperate they were calling applicants on weekends to ask if they could move to St. Louis to begin work in 2 weeks. Also, anyone can scan blogs (including this one) and find comments every few years about new hiring cycles and working conditions.

IMO, trying to sugarcoat the real nature of these positions is misleading.

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underemployedlawyer (Apr 5, 2019 - 1:01 pm)

So what work do people who leave SS positions go into?

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john09 (Apr 5, 2019 - 1:17 pm)

A large percentage of SSA attorney advisors transfer to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, where the pay scale goes up to a GS-14. Based on my observations and experience at SSA, I think the trend is slowing because people at SSA now know how terrible working conditions are at the Board.

SSA attorneys also transfer to agencies such as HHS, where there is a need for decision writers. Like SSA, the promotional potential is a GS-12. But, unlike the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, working conditions appear to be better there.

Finally, SSA attorneys who have prior experience as litigators or have prior clerkship experience transfer to other agencies that value their prior experiences.

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lawst (Apr 5, 2019 - 3:00 pm)

Where can ssa AAs with litigation experience — such as myself — apply?

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underemployedlawyer (Apr 5, 2019 - 1:53 pm)

What does HHS do that they have decision writers for? Never even thought about them before

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catwoman333 (Apr 5, 2019 - 1:55 pm)

Medicare appeals.

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underemployedlawyer (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:11 pm)

Ahh I see. Curious do states have something similar for Medicaid appeals ?

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downwardslope (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:39 pm)

They would have ALJs or hearing officers, but they typically hold the hearings and write their own decisions at the state level.

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john09 (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:12 pm)

There are quite a few decision writing positions at HHS. These positions deal with Medicare appeals and are located in the following offices: 1) Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (3rd level of review); 2) Departmental Appeals Council (4th level of review); and 3) Departmental Appeals Board. Unfortunately, I don't think HHS will be hiring many attorneys in the near future because they had a huge nationwide hiring spree within the last year. I know quite a few people who transferred over there, and, based on what I hear, HHS is not a bad place to work and the work is more transferable to other attorney positions elsewhere (compared to SSA and VA).

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downwardslope (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:30 pm)

I believe they will hire quite a few more attorneys in the future because they just opened up something like 5-6 new offices and have not completed hiring. Right now they are in the middle of testing/hiring new ALJs, and I think once they finish with the ALJ hiring (they are the supervisors there), they will probably ramp up again with attorney hires. I have read the plan is to hire something like 40-70 ALJs and I think they have about 2 attorneys per ALJ.

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underemployedlawyer (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:37 pm)

Do you know where these hhs decision writers jobs are physically located?

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lawst (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:44 pm)

The job is a double edged sword. On one hand, after 7 years as a criminal trial attorney, the slower pace was very nice. It paid more than prior jobs. The bump from 11 to 12 was substantial. 7.5 hr work day is nice.

But there are a lot of cons:
-routine, repetitive, monotonous, tedious work
-quota (achievable but becomes more difficult over time since the work is so dull)
-paying bar dues sucks when paralegals, *also* gs 12, don’t
-lack of promotion potential. Gs 12 is pretty much it unless you advance to management or get promoted to senior attorney (rare from my understanding)
-the fast pace, keeping up with the quota, frankly makes it more difficult to study and learn the law. The job is fact-based, with very little actual legal analysis. The regulations are often relaxed depending on the likelihood a given aspect of a decision could be appealed. E.g. nearly everything is out the window in favorable decisions.
-lack of transferability to other legal jobs. This is a narrow field. And while the idea of legal writing in a general sense sounds nice, and such skills would be marketable, that’s not really what this job is.

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john09 (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:50 pm)

To be fair, most legal jobs are routine, repetitive, monotonous, and tedious. The vast majority of attorneys are not doing legal work that is remotely groundbreaking or novel.

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lawst (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:54 pm)

You’re correct but this job is more so than others I’ve done. As I said, I was in criminal law, which also became routine and tedious. But I also tried jury trials, wrote appellate briefs, etc.

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underemployedlawyer (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:49 pm)

Do they ever make decision writers into ALJs? Seems like the job is being a clerk for judge ? At least you get preference points as a federal employee

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lawst (Apr 5, 2019 - 2:57 pm)

There is a separate process for selection of aljs. Unfortunately there’s no way to simply be promoted to alj from AA.

The job sounds like being a law clerk. But it’s really not.

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catwoman333 (Apr 5, 2019 - 3:11 pm)

I met one SSA judge who said she worked as a DW before becoming an ALJ, but she said she was hired to be a judge more than 10 years ago.

It's my understanding that most fed. agencies now hiring ALJs really value people with previous experience easily transferable to an ALJ job/role (e.g., state ALJs or fed. litigators constantly interacting with judges in court).

But now that the old centralized OPM system of ALJ hiring was abolished by Trump's Exec. Order last year, who knows what they want or when they will resume hiring. While DW experience is probably helpful, esp. if you want to be an ALJ in the same agency, that might not be enough to prevail over a candidate with years of state ALJ or federal litigation exp.

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downwardslope (Apr 5, 2019 - 3:22 pm)

Yes, but keep in mind that even in training in the past, some people were already on the ALJ register when they became writers or in the process of getting on the register. One person I trained with got on the register almost right away and then someone else got on a few months later. Both had more than 10 years experience before starting with SSA. They don’t have the register anymore, but I think they plan to use the old register if they continue to hire at SSA. HHS does not use the register and the application process is a little different.

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catwoman333 (Apr 5, 2019 - 4:03 pm)

Downwardslope, you continue to post "false" information...:).

But, seriously, I still believe that a candidate with years of experience as a judge (even an ALJ in state court) or as a litigator in court in front of judges every day would be deemed a much stronger candidate than someone with admin. agency clerk experience, regardless of old registry status or old test scores.

But like I said, who knows? If Trump's reelected, this issue will likely be moot because he has publicly proclaimed his disdain for judges, federal bureaucracy/agencies, and will probably oppose hire of more ALJs while in office.

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