Posts Tagged With: LOS ANGELES

Judges Hold Hearings But Issue No Decisions

Furloughed attorney waits and worries that Social Security appeals will be delayed

Elisa Wayne 2

Ken Scarboro/KPCC

Elisa Wayne, a furloughed SSA attorney, holding the letter she was given to provide creditors – notifying them of her status and requesting leniency.

The Social Security Administration announced that during the partial shutdown of the federal government, benefits checks will still go out — a big relief to millions of people who depend on that income.  But the agency has still had to furlough some of its employees.

Elisa Wayne is one of them. Wayne works as an attorney in the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.

But on the first day of the shutdown, she was in her downtown LA office for just an hour.  She left on furlough with a letter provided by her supervisor, explaining why she might not be able to make timely payments on her bills.

“They said, ‘here, make a bunch of copies, and if you need it, give it to whoever you need to, you know, to whoever your creditors are,’”  Wayne told KPCC.  Then she read some lines from the letter:

To whom this may concern:  I am writing to you on behalf of the Social Security Association employees to ask for your assistance at a time of personal financial hardship,

Congress and the president have not reached agreement on the appropriations bill for SSA.  Since SSA has no funding at this time to pay employee salaries, we have been required to furlough employees.  This action will make it exceedingly difficult for many employees to meet their financial obligations

I would appreciate any assistance you can provide in arranging the postponement,  temporary reduction or rescheduling of payments for any current financial obligation with your organization.

‘Less Freaked Out’

Wayne was also furloughed when the federal government shut down during the Clinton Administration in 1995 and 1996.  After missing a few weeks of work, she says she was paid retroactively.  She hopes that will be the case this go-round.

“I’m less freaked out than some of the new hirees who don’t really know what to expect,” Wayne said.

An attorney with more than twenty years of government service, Wayne earns more than $100,000 a year. She’s on her own and her monthly expenses include an apartment in Brentwood.  She paid her monthly rent of $2500 the day government shutdown began and hopes she won’t have to send one of those letters to her landlord next month.

“I don’t have a big cushion between paychecks, like maybe a couple hundred dollars that I can squirrel away somewhere,” Wayne says.

Shutdown makes ‘a farce’ of disability hearings

Wayne knows she’s lucky compared to the people who depend on her work. When Social Security disability benefits are denied, applicants can appeal the decision in hearings held before judges in her office.  But Wayne says she and nine other attorneys working in the downtown LA office are furloughed.

On its web site, the SSA says during the shutdown, hearings offices remain open to conduct hearings before an Administrative Law Judge.  There are 18  hearing offices in California, including locations in Los Angeles, Downey, San Bernardino, Long Beach, San Diego, Orange, and Pasadena.

Wayne says while the judges are still working and supposed to be running hearings,  “it’s really a farce, because there is nobody there to write the decisions,  which I do. ”

Wayne says that the furloughs are bound to delay an already slow decision-making process for people who are counting on their appeal, and might really need government assistance.

“This is life or death for them, waiting to hear,” Wayne says of the applicants. (Brian Watt)

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The Judge And His Husband

Border Guards Picked on the Wrong Judge And His Husband


May 20, 2013

LOS ANGELES (CN) – An administrative law judge (ALJ) for the NLRB and his husband sued U.S. Customs and Border Protection for $3 million, claiming an officer asked to see their marriage certificate at the border, and assaulted them when they complained.

 William Kocol and Timothy Gajewski sued Several Unnamed U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers in Federal Court, alleging assault and battery, unlawful detention, slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and constitutional violations.


English: CBP Officer badge

English: CBP Officer badge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

l, an administrative law judge (ALJ) for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and Gajewski, an architect, were legally married in Beverly Hills in 2008.

English: Color logo of the National Labor Rela...

English: Color logo of the National Labor Relations Board, an independent agency of the United States federal government. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They claim that CBP officers singled them out in December 2012 at Los Angeles International airport after a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

After Kocol handed a Customs officer a Customs card “indicating that he was the ‘head of household,’ and was traveling with one family member,” the plaintiffs say they were asked to explain their relationship.

“Plaintiff Gajewski said ‘husband’ and then plaintiff Kocol also said ‘husband,'” the complaint states.

The officer “shook his head in disapproval and after a few seconds plaintiff Kocol said, ‘Yes, this was California and we are legally married,'” according to the complaint.

The officer asked to see their marriage certificate, and refused to allow them to enter the United States, the couple says.

“At that point plaintiff Kocol asked to see his supervisor and plaintiff Gajewski said that he was sure that CBPO ‘A’ does not ask a straight married couple to produce a copy of their marriage certificate,” the complaint states.

The plaintiffs say the officer motioned for the next man and woman in line to step forward. Kocol and Gajewski protested, and were soon surrounded by five armed CBP officers and separated.

Kocol claims that one of the officers “put his right hand against plaintiff Kocol’s upper back, grabbed his left hand and began to forcefully push him into the room.”

Inside the room, the officer “twisted him around and pushed him down into a row of chairs, to his great personal discomfort,” the complaint states.

Gajewski told CBPO Officer D: “‘This is bullshit; do you treat every married couple this way?’ ‘This is my government being homophobic.'”

When Gajewski walked toward the room where Kocol was detained, the CBP officer “grabbed his wrist and twisted it backwards behind his back,” the complaint states.

The defendants returned Gajewski’s and Kocol’s passports after Kocol told them he was a federal judge, and that he intended to contact the Human Rights Campaign, and the Gay and Lesbian Center.

The plaintiffs say the officer who eventually processed their passports apologized, and told them: “‘Some people can’t seem to change with the times.'”

They seek more than $1 million in general damages, and more than $2 million in punitive damages.

They are represented by Scott McKee of West Hollywood.  

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