An article in the Federal Report Friday failed to identify Edward J. Reidy as a hearing officer for the Merit Systems Protection Board.
A hearing officer for the Merit Systems Protection Board has recommended that an administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration be dismissed because his productivity "has been unacceptably low."
It is extremely rare for an administrative law judge to be fired, and attorneys for both sides said this marked the first time that efficiency--not misconduct or malfeasance--has been cited as grounds for dismissal of one.
Two similar cases are pending before the board, to which agencies must turn when they want to dismiss an administrative law judge.
In a separate action earlier this year, the Association of Administrative Law Judges filed suit against the SSA, charging that the agency had pressured them to increase their productivity and deny more claims in order to save the government money.
In the case now before the merit board, Judge Robert W. Goodman and the Federal Administrative Law Judges Conference, which intervened on his behalf, argued that, by compiling figures on the average number of cases that SSA judges decide and pushing some of the judges to speed up, the agency is jeopardizing the fairness of the hearing process.
The SSA argues that Goodman's slow pace jeopardized the agency's ability to give claimants a speedy hearing and placed an undue burden on his colleagues.
The SSA's 815 administrative law judges--by far the largest corps of them in the government--are quasi-judicial officers who hear appeals by individuals who were denied benefits by the agency. About 280,000 claims were filed in 1981. The SSA expects 400,000 in 1983.
In 1981 the SSA began to "monitor and counsel" judges who decided fewer than 21 cases a month. Goodman, who decided about 16 cases a month in 1980, was told in 1981 that his productivity was "considerably less than the majority of his colleagues."
In moving for his dismissal, the SSA argued that Goodman had been offered a variety of aids to help increase his production, but that instead his output slowed to 14 cases a month.
Reidy noted that Goodman's legal competence, fairness and diligence are not being challenged. But Goodman's productivity, Reidy wrote, has been "so unacceptably low as to handicap the agency in its effort to carry out its mission . . . ."
Reidy suggested, though, that Goodman be transferred to another part of the Health and Human Services Department rather than be dismissed from federal service as the SSA wants.
Goodman was not available for comment yesterday.
Both sides in the case have until May 6 to file additional arguments with the three-member board. A spokesman for the Merit Systems Protection Board said it could take several months to rule on Goodman's case.