Help Coming for WC Case Backlog
More than $2 million is included in the president’s 2015 budget proposal to help reduce the backlog of federal workers’ comp cases. Specifically, it includes money for more employees in the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
The judges preside over formal hearings concerning various labor-related matters, especially black lung benefits and longshore workers’ comp. They also hear and decide cases arising from more than 80 labor-related statutes and regulations.
Observers say the number of judges has dwindled despite an increase in the caseload.
The budget request includes “an increase of $2,027,000 and 10 FTE for OALJ to support productivity increases and alleviate the growing backlog of cases before the judges,” the budget proposal says. “OALJ cases are adjudicated under a variety of mostly worker protection acts in approximately 7,300 cases each year.”
The proposal comes on the heels of a report from the Center for Public Integrity that said more than 11,000 cases were pending in the OALJ in 2013. The organization, which bills itself as “the country’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations,” said the caseload has forced “some sick and injured workers to wait years for benefits.”
It also said the number of judges “has fallen to 35 nationwide, from 41 in early 2013 and 53 a decade ago.” While the president’s budget proposal calls for the additional employees, the proposal does not specify how many would be judges as opposed to support staff.