Web News – January 2019

Empire Justice Center January 28, 2019

EAJA Rates Updated

Thanks to Gene Doyle of People Organized for Our Rights, Inc. (P.O.O.R.), we are able to stay up to date on how increases in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index and Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) affect EAJA rates.  EAJA, or the Equal Access to Justice Act, allows plaintiffs suing federal agencies such as Social Security Administration to collect attorney fees if they prevail.  Gene periodically does the calculations for us and publishes updated charts that he shares on the DAP list serve.  The charts are  also available on the Empire Justice Center website:  https://empirejustice.org/resources_post/federal-eaja-hourly-rates-march-1996-through-september-2017/


New Tool Helps Assess the Public Charge Rule’s Impact

The Legal Aid Society, Make the Road New York, and Empire Justice Center released a new tool for advocates and service providers working with immigrant communities potentially impacted by the federal government’s proposed “public charge” regulations.  The regulations have caused confusion and concern about utilizing government benefits, including SSI.


To address these concerns, the “Public Charge Screening Tool” was designed to help make a determination about who might be at risk of public charge, help answer clients’ questions, and determine who needs a referral to a lawyer with immigration expertise.


The tool was developed to be used now, even though the rules are not expected to go into effect before March 2019, because of the ongoing confusion and fear immigrant families and individuals confront when deciding whether to apply for or continue to receive benefits.  The goal is to help advocates allay these concerns where possible and connect to an attorney where necessary.




OTR Rates Vary

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has published the number of decisions made “on the record” (OTR) by hearing office.  Of note, 8,746 OTR decisions were issues in Fiscal Year 2017, which represents 3.6% of all decisions.  The OTR rates vary considerably among hearing offices, for which there could be any number of explanations – or not.  For example, do some offices have low rates because they refer potential OTRs to the National Adjudication Team?  Do some offices simply have more cases in their jurisdictions?  Note that hearing offices marked as “(b)(6)” masked their OTR data.