The number of workers’ compensation, immigration, wage and whistleblower cases has more than doubled over the past decade, while the number of judges available to handle them has declined.
To help address the backlog, which grew to 11,325 cases at the end of September 2013, the Obama Administration has proposed an additional $2 million to hire 10 employees within the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ).
The infusion would be welcome for an office that has seen the number of judges nationwide drop to 35 nationwide. There were 41 early in fiscal year 2013 and 53 a decade ago.
The budget request follows a February 18 letter six members of Congress sent to the White House. The lawmakers complained of “untenable delays” in adjudicating claims, such as claims under the Black Lung Benefits Act, and alleged violations of employment law. “These delays directly and severely impact the lives of workers throughout the country, placing an undue financial and emotional burden on the affected individuals and their families,” they said.
The Labor Department has stated it is committed to resolving compensation claims for workers and their families, including alleviating the ALJ case backlog.
If the funds are approved, it is likely only three or four more ALJs would be added, with the rest of the money going for support personnel.