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Association of Administrative Law Judges v. Heckler

United States District Court for the District of Columbia
594 F. Sup.. 1132 (D.D.C. 1984)


The Association of Administrative Law Judges (plaintiff) is a non-profit corporation composed of administrative law judges (ALJs) employed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (defendant) to adjudicate claims for disability benefits. In 1980, Congress enacted the “Bellmon Amendment” which directed the Secretary of HHS to review the decision of ALJs on her own motion. Congress express concern at the high rate at which ALJs were reversing determinations made at the state level and the level of variance in those decisions. In the Bellmon Review Program, HHS selected 4 categories of cases for own motion review: (1) random sample, (2) allowance decisions by new ALJs, (3) decisions referred by the Office of Disability Operations and 4) individual ALJs who had high allowance rates, i.e., rates at which they allowed claims for benefits. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging that the selection of cases by ALJs with high allowance rates for review was an attempt to influence ALJs to reduce their allowance rates and compromise their decisional independence. Later on in the Bellmon Review Program, HHS stopped using allowance rates as a factor in selecting cases for review.   

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