As of January 20, 2020, the Office of Hearings Operations has updated the Standard Operating Procedures to Centralized Scheduling Units. This means that there are new guidelines that will standardize communications between Regional Centralized Scheduling Units (RSCU) and representatives.
With this change, the RSCU will request all representatives (or firms) to provide the dates that representatives are available for court hearings. While this new system may result in faster scheduling of hearings, it brings to light new problems of scheduling conflicts with representatives as well as an inundation of prematurely scheduled hearings.
The RCSU is requiring attorneys to provide their schedules at least five months in advance according to their guidelines. This is a problem because not all attorneys know what their availability will be in a month, let alone several months beforehand.
While it is not our practice to purposely delay our claimant’s hearings, so far with centralized scheduling our office is often getting scheduled for as many as 75 hearing in a month, some within multiple regions in one day (for example, Newark, NJ and Philadelphia, PA) which is nearly impossible for our attorneys to cover.
Our requests for particular scheduling to RSCU are often ignored. For example, we ask that no more than four hearings be scheduled in a day; we have been scheduled sometimes between six and eight hearings on any given day. This is an impossible standard to meet on a daily basis.
Centralized scheduling can also affect the preparation of a claim; without enough notice of a hearing, our attorneys do not have the time to prepare a file with the proper medical evidence for a fully favorable decision. Oftentimes, when the timeframe for a hearing is too soon, it is in the best interest of our clients for us to have the hearing adjourned and rescheduled. While this often is met with anger and frustration from some of our claimants, we do this for the best possible outcome of a claim to avoid any further delay due to an unfavorable decision.
And while it is our client’s best interest for us to postpone a hearing, our requests to do so are often ignored due to the pressure on judges to push through as many cases as possible.
While this change is supposed to offer a solution to the backlogged hearing requests, it’s causing more conflicts than resolutions to a problem. Our office continues to work at the best interest of our clients and will continue to do so while learning to adapt to the new scheduling system.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.