Offices of Hearing Operations (OHOs) across the county are implementing Centralized Scheduling Units (CSUs). A CSU is a group of OHO hearing scheduling staff located together (typically in a hearing office, but sometimes in a regional or other office) to coordinate hearing scheduling for many hearing offices located near each other (a scheduling region). Instead of getting phone calls from OHO staff to schedule cases, representatives will now have to submit their availability to the CSUs by email and will need to regularly update their schedules. See SSA’s Rules of Conduct and Standards of Responsibility for Representatives. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1740(b)(3)(iii) & 416.1540(b)(3)(iii) (“When requested, provide us, in a manner we specify, potential dates and times that the representative will be available for a hearing. We will inform the representative how many potential dates and times we require to coordinate the hearing schedule.”) See also HALLEX I-2-3-10.
SSA’s goal is have at least one CSU in every region. The current list of units includes:
Region 1 (one CSU): Manchester and Portland
Region 2 (one CSU, two more in rollout): San Juan and Ponce; Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and possibly Albany (rollout); New York metropolitan area including Jersey City (rollout)
Region 3 (one CSU): Roanoke and Norfolk
Region 4 (two CSU): Tampa and St. Petersburg, while another handles Birmingham, Florence, and Montgomery
Region 5 (one CSU, second in rollout): Oak Park, Detroit, Livonia, Indianapolis, Flint, Grand Rapids, Mt. Pleasant, and Lansing; Chicago, Evanston, Oak Brook, Orland Park, and Valparaiso (rollout)
Region 6 (one CSU): Tulsa and Oklahoma City
Region 7 (one CSU): single CSU for all hearing offices (Region 7 was the pilot, using a CSU for several years now)
Region 8 (one CSU): Colorado Springs and Denver
Region 9 (one CSU): Phoenix, Phoenix North, Tucson, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and San Rafael
Region 10 (one CSU): Portland and Eugene
Advocates have been discussing the roll out of the CSUs in Region 2 with office of the Regional Chief ALJ. As indicated above, the Region 2 CSU will be divided by geographic areas, although in the future New York State may have one single CSU. It is anticipated that by the end of the Fiscal Year there will be one “upstate” CSU for Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany. Currently, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse each have their own email mailboxes and have been requesting schedules for a while. Apparently, Albany, Long Island, and White Plains are not yet using centralized scheduling. The NYC region CSU is being rolled out, and will include Jersey City.
Advocates should check to see if their local OHOs currently have emails set up to accept representative schedules. Advocates can submit availability individually or with a practice group or unit in one pdf document, broken out into sections for each representative in the unit. The availability should go as far into the future as possible. An updated version should be emailed whenever there is a change in availability.
Representatives can and should identify particular scheduling needs. For example, an office could ask the CSU for these restriction: “For each representative, at most six hearings per month and no more than two hearings per week” or “No hearings before 10:00 due to child care needs.” Whether or not these requests will be followed may depend in part on how many cases representatives have and if the requests would have a negative impact on the CSU’s ability to schedule hearings. According to the Regional Chief ALJ’s Office, the NYC CSU plans to schedule hearings for each representative at only one OHO a day; in other words, it will not schedule an advocate in multiple OHOs in one day. Advocates are continuing to work with the Regional Chief’s office. Please send Michelle Spadafore (firstname.lastname@example.org) your suggested scheduling restrictions to help determine which types of restrictions can be built into the CSU roll out.
Once the CSU or current scheduler has assigned the hearing, the representative will have one-two days to request the date be changed. ALJs have been increasingly inflexible about rescheduling dates even where there is a conflict, so it is important to identify conflicts while the case is still with the scheduler. Advocates should check ERE case lists daily to identify any hearings that have just been scheduled and pose a conflict. Contact the scheduler ASAP to request the hearing be rescheduled before the hearing notice is sent out. Rescheduling should be liberally allowed during this window. If the hearing is postponed by the ALJ, the case will go back to CSU for rescheduling.
It appears that National Hearing Centers (NHCs) are not part of any CSU. And at this point, if cases are transferred to OHOs in other regions, there is no way for other regions to see a representative’s availability. Other OHOs can see if a representative already has a hearing scheduled, but not the representative’s availability requests. It is not clear which, if any, of the NHCs are using an email address for scheduling. The Regional Chief’s Office has indicated that once the NYS emails are up and running, the local CSUs should exchange representative availability with the NHCs and other OHOs to which cases have been sent.
Thanks to Michelle Spadafore of NYLAG for summarizing these changes and for her continued advocacy with the Regional Chief’s office on issues involving the roll-out.
For more on these CSU changes, please consider attending an upcoming CLE at 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 on May 5, 2019, at LSNYC. Attorney David Camp of Indiana, who has been instrumental in working with SSA on CSU roll-outs in Regions 7 and 9, will give a presentation on CSUs. He will be joined by Regional Chief ALJ Aaron Morgan and Elizabeth Wohlgemuth, Quality Review Officer for the Office of the Regional Chief ALJ. For details and to register, visit:
Live Classroom Training https://www.learningcenter.legalservicesnyc.org/training-view?t_id=3079.
Attendees will need a Justice Center Learning Account in order to register and receive CLE Credits.