A new Administrative Law judge vacancy announcement for Social Security Administration (SSA) Administrative Law Judges is rumored to open prior to April 16th, 2016. However, once the vacancy SSA ALJ announcement posts, there is a good chance it will only be open for up to two days. Therefore, we recommend you prepare your ALJ Resume for application NOW!
We Have Perfected the ALJ Application RESUME Writing Process
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Develop Your ALJ Application
So many wait until the last minute and the SSA Application (vacancy announcement) is very detailed. Here is a copy of the last ALJ Application announcement from 2013. http://www.seswriters.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ALJ-VacancyAnnouncement.pdf. We do not expect that this SSA ALJ vacancy will change, as it is still from the last register in 2014.
If you need assistance in developing your ALJ Resume Application our executive writers are extremely experienced and understand the ALJ application development process and what is required to earn high scores.
Below are a few Q&A regarding the ALJ”
Q. When can I take the OPM test?
A. Assuming you meet the minimal ALJ candidate qualifications, whenever OPM reopens it, which happens irregularly. When it reopens, OPM announce it on the USAJOBS.gov website.
Based on the past exams, the announcement is only open for a limited period before OPM gets the maximum number of applicants it wants. So when the announcement opens, you should get the application in ASAP.
The only exception to the above rule is for 10 point veterans (you know who you are). They can take it anytime pursuant to the CFR.
Q. What is the difference between being on the ALJ registry and being on a cert?
A. Registry = list of people who took the test and got scored. Everyone who made the initial cut on the OPM test gets scored and put on there.
Certificate = list sent to the hiring agency from OPM. Contains the names of three geographically compatible top scorers for each ALJ opening. So if an agency is hiring 10 ALJs, OPM will send a certificate with 30 names on it.
Q. What kind of accomplishments usually are scored higher than others?
A. No one knows for sure how OPM score accomplishments.
Q. Does a lack of litigation experience hurt your chances?
A. Not necessarily. ALJs as a group demonstrate a wide variety of life experience. Some ALJs who have been hired have a background in administrative law and have worked for federal agencies. Some have been managers. Some litigators.
What is key is the ability to describe your work experience in terms of the competencies OPM identifies in the job announcement.
Q. What is the “Online Component”?
A. If you clear the preliminary qualifications screening of your online application package you will be invited to participate in an online component. The online component is composed of three parts: A Situational Judgment Test (SJT), Writing Sample, and Experience Assessment
Section 1: SJT – The SJT presents applicants with a set of work-related problems or critical situations and asks applicants to indicate which of the multiple-choice response options they would most likely and least likely take to handle the situations. The SJT is administered online, is timed, and involves text-based scenarios as well as video-based scenarios with closed captioning. Applicants may take as long as they wish to review the instructions but are given 75 minutes to respond to the SJT questions.
Section 2: Writing Sample – The Writing Sample is an exercise in which applicants write a response to a pre-determined topic. Applicants type their writing sample responses online and the exercise is timed. Applicants may take as long as they wish to review the instructions but are given 35 minutes to prepare a response to the question.
Section 3: Experience Assessment – The Experience Assessment includes multiple-choice and open-ended questions about work experience that is related to ALJ positions. Applicants select a multiple-choice response and write a narrative response, as appropriate, to indicate and document their experience associated with the targeted competency. The Experience Assessment is not timed.
Q. Do I pay for my own way to DC for the OPM test?
A. Yes. For the WD, LBMT and SI, you must travel to DC on the assigned dates at your own expense. In the past the WD and the SI were on separate dates, even weeks apart, and the WD was held in multiple cities throughout the US. However, in 2013 these tests were consolidated and were held on successive dates, with the WD and LBMT being held at OPM headquarters on one date and the SI being held the following date at a hotel in DC. Therefore, only one trip to DC was required for the 2013 testing.
Q. How long can and do most folks sit on a certificate?
A. The current certificate that went to SSA is about a few weeks old (as of November 5) and people will sit on it until SSA completes its hiring in a few month. After the hiring is done, the certificate expires.
The current Registry was created in February of 2014 and likely be in force for the next few years.
Q. What about this four hour written exam? Is it multiple choice or an essay? Do you need to study? Do you have to type? What if you can’t sit for four hours? What if you have to use the bathroom?
A. The Written Demonstration is done using a laptop at the OPM building in DC. It’s basically like the practical exam when you sat for the Bar ages ago. You have 4 hours to take the test, and you’re free to go use the restroom, etc. It just all comes out of your time (the clock doesn’t stop). If you have a disability, contact OPM ahead of time for accommodation, but be prepared to provide documentation.
Q. What is the LBMT?
A. The Logic Based Measurement Test (“LBMT”) is a new test that began with the 2013 opening of the register. It is administered at OPM on the same day as the written demonstration, and is in multiple-choice format. Applicants are given a set of scenarios, and must choose which one response option is logically accurate. Based on the wording of the 2013 Announcement, it is believed that the LBMT has no minimum required score, as do the WD and SI, but your score on the LBMT will be added to your scores on the SJT/Writing Sample/Experience Assessment, the WD and SI components, and any veteran’s preference points to determine your final numerical rating.
Q. What is the OPM SI (structured interview) generally like? Are they chatty? Do you get to say “your own thing”? Who’s on the interview panel?
A. It’s a structured interview. Per OPM guidelines, interview panel should be composed of 1 ALJ, 1 Attorney & 1 OPM person, but in recent testing OPM has been using 2 ALJs & 1 OPM person or even 1 ALJ & 1 OPM person (after getting a waiver from the candidate on the date of the SI). Anything beyond the above info can’t be disclosed due to the confidentiality agreement people had to sign.
Q. How long is the SI and does the time vary? Are they nice, mean or just Spock-like? Do they feign any interest in your well-being?
A. We don’t know because everyone had to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Q. When does the Veteran’s Preference (5 or 10 pts) gets added in this process?
A. From the OPM announcement: “In determining the SJT, Writing Sample, and Experience Assessment score, veterans’ preference points will be applied for applicants who are entitled to such points and have submitted the required documentation. For candidates who successfully complete the remaining components of the examination, preference points will then be withdrawn from the SJT, Writing Sample, and Experience Assessment score, so that veterans’ preference points, when applied to the applicant’s final score for the entire examination, will be counted only once.”
Q. Is the SSA Interview different than OPM’s? If so, how so? Is it scored or is it up and down thumbs?
A. The OPM SI is just that, a structured interview with suggested ratings of possible answers, so there is a “right” or “wrong” answer. The interviewers have to come to a consensus on the score for each answer which then becomes a part of the final score on the NOR.
By contrast, the SSA interview is also structured, but it’s more of a “fit” interview to see how you would fit into the operation. It is a performance based interview asking the candidate to give examples of their experience in handling the problems that we know will come up. There is no real “numeric” rating that goes into a final score but there is a “recommended” or “not recommended” rating and room for comments. The point is to see if your past performance shows that you can handle this job. You would be very surprised at some of the answers that have been given.
Q. What is it with all the threes? Passing over three times? Rule of Three? What the heck?
A. It’s a somewhat complicated area and it’s a good time for you to read this thread, and this thread.
Q. What’s a score that might get you hired?
A. No score is a guarantee of being hired. Anyone on the certificate could potentially get hired.
Q. Can SSA not hire you even though you may be the high scorer in your “Rule of Three” consideration? How many times are you considered?
A. Yes. It depends – maybe none if you have a low score on the certificate. If you have the highest score and lots of locations identified, a minimum of three, but possibly more. See also this thread for a discussion of the situation.
Q. Why do people talk about SSA/ODAR hiring most of the time, what about other agencies?
A. SSA/ODAR is the biggest employer of ALJs with over 1100+ ALJs nationwide. The next largest agency, Medicare/OMHA only has about 70 ALJs nationwide. Additionally, SSA hires the bulk of new ALJs (probably 95%+) and they are one of the few agencies that do it through the OPM registry (many other agencies only accept transfers from current ALJs). So if you want to become an ALJ, SSA is the most likely place to get hired.
Q. Does anyone know how SSA takes a list of 450 names and decides which three to consider for each location?
A. No one knows for sure.
Q. How does SSA decide the order in which to consider cities that have vacancies? Dart board? Bingo balls? Alphabet?
A. No one knows for sure.
The ALJ Option
By Margaret Graham Tebo
Often the most frustrating part of being a lawyer is that you make the arguments and someone else makes the decisions.
But the quasi-judicial position of administrative law judge can be just the niche for those who want to call the shots. And for the busy solo practitioner, the ability to bypass the politics of elections and appointments only sweetens the appeal.
ALJs (also known in some states as hearing officers, referees, commissioners or trustees) are not members of the judicial branch. But for all practical purposes, the decisions they make have the same effect as those of a judge for the parties whose disputes they hear.
Nicholas Cobbs of Washington, D.C., applied to be an ALJ after 15 years as a solo practitioner. The idea of trying something new appealed to him, and he was ready to trade the independence of solo practice for a steady paycheck. Plus he’s looking forward to the luxury of focusing entirely on the law. “I don’t like the administrative stuff of solo practice–the billing, the rainmaking, etc.,” he says.
There are only about 1,500 federal ALJs nationwide, and about 1,200 of them hear Social Security disability cases. The rest are assigned to various government organizations, including the Securities & Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the U.S. Postal Service, the Food and Drug Administration and 25 other agencies, commissions, offices, departments, boards and administrations.
Other than the Social Security jobs, most ALJs are based in or near Washington, D.C. According to the application information provided by the Office of Personnel Management, typical duties include hearing cases involving claims for government benefits, public license grants and revocations, violations of public laws or regulations, and approval of regulatory rates, wages and prices. In addition, ALJs are empowered to administer oaths, issue subpoenas and order depositions. Pay is currently at the GS-15-16-17 rate, or $89,200 to $134,000 a year.
These jobs aren’t just for anyone who’s simply become disenchanted with solo life. Applicants must have at least several years of formal litigation experience and have other significant practice experience. They must be U.S. citizens and must provide a list of 10 significant cases in which they were directly involved, including names and contact information for the parties, opposing counsel and judge. (Other requirements can be found on the Office of Personnel Management Web site at www.opm.gov.)
Cobbs has practiced insurance, transportation and administrative law during his career–all factors he hopes will help him gain points in the hiring process. And then there’s the test: ALJ hopefuls must take the Civil Service Exam; Cobbs sat for his in February.
Although requirements vary, the experience factor is also important for ALJs operating at the state level, deciding state law issues. In California, for example, ALJs are full-time state employees who must have significant legal experience before they are hired, according to Cristina Phillips, who has been an ALJ in California for about 20 years. Phillips hears health- and welfare-related cases and is based in Escondido, near San Diego.
Phillips says the job is particularly attractive to women who are tired of the long hours that solo practice can demand.
“We have a lot of women because they’re often the ones juggling a lot in terms of family,” says Phillips, who raised three daughters while working as an ALJ. “This job provides more regular hours, steady pay and good state benefits.”
In some states, hearing officers work part time, and some states allow ALJs to practice law on the side. But their practice area must be different from the area in which they hear administrative cases, says Edwin L. Felter Jr., a senior administrative law judge in Colorado and a former chairman of the National Council of Administrative Law Judges.
While pay at the state level is rarely as high as what federal ALJs enjoy, Felter has found the position offers other, more important rewards. “There’s a lot of variety in the cases we hear,” he says. “It’s a good career.”