February 10, 2016

Take Your Best Shot: Former ALJ Gets Candid

By


Bob Soltis, Former ALJ and Lucky

EDITOR’S NOTE: Spit and polish, crisp and concise, prim and proper: those are just a few of the phrases that might be used to describe the world inhabited by former Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Bob Soltis, the son of a U.S. Navy officer who earned a Bronze Star for valor in the Philippines. Soltis, now retired from the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA), began his administrative agency career in 1971, when he was appointed an ex officio member of the Gary Redevelopment Commission. His biology degree from Indiana University helped him represent disabled clients with Social Security and later aided in his career as an ALJ. From 1989 to 1994, Bob served as a Navy Judge Advocate (JAG). His volunteer work for the Catalina Island Conservancy and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility was recognized in the 1992 Who’s Who in the World. A member of the Jimmo Implementation Council, he lives in Northeast Ohio with Lucky, a Jack Russell Terrier, and Keuffel, a canary. This Thursday, Feb. 18, at 1:30 p.m. EST, Soltis will share his recommendations on how to make the most of your time before an ALJ during an exclusive live webcast. We recently sat down with Soltis to talk about his appearance, and what follows are some excerpts from that interview.

How important are first impressions when sizing up an appellant? 

You have only one chance to make a good first impression. A prepared appellant makes a good impression (by) knowing the subject matter, observing the rules we all play by, and listening to what the ALJ says during the hearing.  

What are the three most common mistakes appellants make in coming before you? 

Not preparing, including not reading everything in the hearing notice and the standing order. Explaining or telling your story instead of answering the question the ALJ asked. Reading your presentation.  

How do you distinguish between omission and commission in cases? 

Commission is saying something is so when it ain't so. For example, asserting (that) a MRSA-positive patient is always going to be MRSA-positive. (What about the day they finish their course of IV Vancomycin?)  

An example of omission is telling the ALJ the beneficiary can walk 200 feet, so he doesn't need a power wheelchair, when the rest of the therapy note says "with the assistance of one." Another example of omission would be not sending all potential hearing participants what you send to the ALJ. 

How often have you seen repeat offenders? 

To paraphrase Marlon Brando in The Freshman, “offender” is an ugly word, especially since most people are honest. Ninety percent of the appellants who appeared before me played by the rules. While I choose to celebrate what's right with the world, harkening back to your first question, someone who pulls a fast one can count on little or no credibility next time they come to bat. 

What can providers do to help reduce the backlog of appeals at the ALJ? 

Be kind to the staff at OMHA. The backlog is not their fault. They're pedaling as fast as they can. 

Know your files and file only meritorious cases.  

Submit a proposed decision with every hearing request you submit. Andy Warhol said, "85 percent of life is showing up." Submitting something, anything, but particularly a proposed decision, sets you apart from the pack. 

Register to attend Making the Most of Your Limited Time Before an Administrative Law Judge: The Inside Story.

About the Author

Chuck Buck is the publisher of RACmonitor and the executive producer and program host of Monitor Mondays.

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cbuck@panaceainc.com

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Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of RACmonitor and is the executive producer and program host of Monitor Mondays.

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