Centralized Scheduling Unit (CSU) usage was rolled out in New York State beginning July and is now in use nationally. See the April 2019 edition of this newsletter for more background. Under the CSU scheduling, representatives must submit far in advance dates on which they are unavailable. Hearings are automatically scheduled based on that information, without first contacting the representative.
In a letter sent to advocates in July, SSA provided the following email address for unavailability updates in both Region I (Boston) and Region II (New York):
The letter directs representatives to send unavailability reports (NB: reports must be of when you are not available) on the 15th of the month, five months in advance. For example, dates of your unavailability for the month of April 2020 are due to the CSU by November 15, 2019. But advocates can and should update their calendars even after submission if their schedules change.
SSA provided contacts on its CSU management team available to help answer questions. In upstate New York (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse) the CSU manager is Jessie Galarza, reachable at Jessie.Galarza@ssa.gov or 866-217-1507 x33600. For New York City, Jersey City, Long Island, White Plains, Newark, and South Jersey, the CSU manager is Lisa Beteta, reachable at Lisa.Beteta@ssa.gov or 877-773-7451 x25339.
Later in the summer, SSA held a teleconference to field questions about the new system. Among the issues raised by advocates has been confusion and inefficiencies when dealing with more than one CSU. Many advocates must deal with several, and conflicts can arise between CSU, hearing offices, and national hearing centers. There is also lack of clarity as to the appropriate contacts when dealing with multiple offices.
Information sent to Region II is entered into a spreadsheet that is shared with the NHCs. But if, for example, you have a hearing pending out of state, you must send unavailability information to that OHO’s Regional CSU if it has one. Otherwise it must be sent directly to the OHO.
NOSSCR has been advocating for a number of improvements, including:
- That SSA hold regular conversations with advocates and other stakeholders;
- Website publication by SSA of pertinent information, such as a list of which offices are using CSUs, how to contact them, and deadlines and information for how advocates can submit or update their unavailability;
- Controlling for scheduling conflicts and rescheduling without an affirmative request from the representative;
- Permitting CSU staff to communicate by email to better manage scheduling conflicts and communicate effectively with representatives;
- Collect and examine CSU data about rescheduling rates and adherence to policies concerning scheduling and assignment of ALJs and experts;
- Inform ALJs that the CSU system results in some double-booking, so that it is understood that representatives are not to blame;
- Create a single portal for unavailability information rather than require submission to numerous offices;
- Create consistent guidelines for submission of and updates to unavailability information, including guidelines for content and format;
- Consider national coordination and other ways to minimize conflicts; and
- Consider a moratorium on CSU usage until issues are resolved.
Advocates are urged to monitor their Hearing Status Reports on ERE multiple times a day to try to catch any scheduling conflicts in time to address it. There is a small window of about two to three business days in which a CSU can change the day and time of a hearing before the notice is issued. During this “penciling period” a representative may work with the CSU to reschedule instead of requesting an adjournment from the ALJ.
Of course, it will also be important to keep your unavailability report as updated as possible and to watch closely for updated contact and deadline information for the various CSUs.
Please continue to share your experiences, good and bad, with the CSU scheduling.