As discussed in the April 2019 and October 2019 issues of this newsletter, Centralized Scheduling Unit (CSU) procedures are now underway in New York State and most of the country. CSU is designed to centralize SSA’s scheduling of ALJ hearings, so that hearings will be scheduled automatically based on availability information provided by the representative five months in advance. Since the rollout last year, there has been a significant amount of advocacy directed at clarifying the procedures and improving some of the problems with the new system.
In the most recent update to Region 2, Regional Chief ALJ Aaron Morgan held a teleconference on January 21, 2020, to inform representatives of some new developments and changes to its procedures that went into effect this month. Additional information was provided in a follow-up email.
Advocates must still send their scheduling information monthly five months in advance to the following address for cases in Region I and Region II, which cover Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, and Vermont:
One change, however, is that SSA is now requesting that advocates provide availability information and not information about unavailability. This change is intended to reduce confusion. This new procedure applies to scheduling information for the month June and later. There is no need to revise information submitted for prior months.
Another change is that scheduling information must now be submitted on the 20th of every month.
SSA also announced it is creating an internal central portal to track availability across the nation to ensure that all regions can check information from the same source and avoid double-booking. The lack of coordination between different regions or between regions and the National Hearing Centers has been a major problem that continues to result in double-booking. The different regions do not currently operate under the same scheduling process.
SSA did not provide a timeframe for when the portal would be complete but assured that it was “steadily working toward it.” Until the system is truly centralized, SSA advises advocates to submit different availability dates to different CSUs to avoid double booking.
At the same time, SSA urged advocates to provide a sufficient number of dates for the number of cases that are in ready-to-schedule (RTS). Although a CSU will reach out to you directly if you have not done so, the agency advises checking your ERE regularly to be aware of the number and location of cases that are in RTS status to help ensure adequate availability.
The agency noted that for supplemental hearings – which require only 20 days notice and not 75 – individual hearing offices and not just the CSU may contact you for additional availability.
SSA stated it would be publicizing contact information on its website to improve communication with the CSUs. The agency provided the following updated contacts for the Region 1/Region 2 CSU Management Team:
- Regional Attorney Jaimie Hanlon, CSU Director: Jaimie.Hanlon@ssa.gov
- Lisa Beteta, CSU Group Supervisor: Lisa.Beteta@ssa.gov; 877-773-7451 x25339
- Jessie Galarza, CSU Group Supervisor: Jessie.Galarza@ssa.gov; 866-217-1507 x33600
- Ellen Munsey, CSU Group Supervisor: Ellen.Munsey@ssa.gov; 877-701-2137 x22606
If a hearing notice has not yet been issued, requests for changes to the hearing date or time may be made directly to the CSU. If a notice has already issued, a formal adjournment request must be submitted to the ALJ.
Advocates are continuing to share feedback and best practices in the evolving use of CSUs. Additional advice, relayed by Michelle Spadafore of NYLAG, is to mark in boldface the new information being provided every month, so that the CSU doesn’t need to check or re-enter information previously submitted. You should also specify if you do not have any dates for a particular month. Keep us informed of issues you encounter with these and other CSU changes.