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Salling v. Bowen
United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia
641 F. Supp. 1046 (1986)
In 1982, the Social Security Administration launched an experimental project whereby representatives appeared at hearings before administrative-law judges (ALJ) in disability insurance and supplemental security income cases in which claimants were represented by counsel. Initially, the representatives were supervised by the Office of Hearings and Appeals, and the project’s goals were to improve the quality, timeliness, and consistency of disability determinations by having the representatives develop the evidence for hearings, instead of ALJs. In practice, representatives developed administrative records in favor of the administration’s position before handing them over to ALJs; for example, representatives sought medical expert opinions to defeat claims of disability while failing to obtain consultative examinations to support claims of indigent claimants. When first published, the regulations established that the project would last one year and be instituted in five offices. However, by internal rule the project was extended. Representatives were no longer supervised by the Office of Hearings and Appeals; they still developed administrative records for hearings; they still appeared at hearings where claimants were represented by counsel; they submitted prepared findings of fact and conclusions of law to ALJs; and they recommended that approved cases be taken up by the appeals council, although representatives did not appear before the council. From the program’s inception, the administration stressed that it was not an adversarial process. However, Salling and six other Social Security benefits claimants (plaintiffs) challenged the project in a federal district court, claiming that the project violated fundamental principles of procedural due process, the administration’s regulations, and the Social Security Act.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Williams, J.)
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