National Council of Social Security Management Associations
Issue 52 December 2015
The New Administrative Investigation Process
In November, the Social Security Administration (SSA) implemented a new administrative investigation process for handling reported incidents of harassment. In theory, this should lead to a more consistent and fair process for investigating allegations.
Our concern is that, as currently constituted, the new process may be abused and encourage some to make false allegations simply to harass management. We have indications that these types of false allegations are already occurring, which is both problematic and unfortunate.
We believe that if the administrative investigation is thorough, investigators will be able to determine what is legitimate and what is not. Ultimately, allegations need to be supported with clear evidence rather than baseless charges. If the investigator’s interviews are comprehensive, they should be able to determine the validity of the allegations. It is important to note that if a member of management is under investigation for possible harassment, during the interview process they should provide as much detail as possible regarding the facts related to the case. This includes specifically detailing who else would know the truth and facts related to the allegations.
One area we have specific concerns about is the current policy regarding removal of management during an administrative investigation. We passed Resolution 18, at our October National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA) Annual Meeting, in an effort to address this. The condition of Resolution 18 states:
NCSSMA has been told that moving a manager because of an administrative investigation protects both the manager and the agency. Unfortunately, we have seen instances where the removal of the management official is interpreted by union activists as an indication of fault and used to induce additional complaints. This has resulted in questionable allegations, which serve to cloud and subvert the investigation process. While the desire ostensibly is to protect the individual management official and the agency, the result, in some instances, has been to exacerbate the situation and has been tantamount to throwing fuel on the fire.
Our association’s direction, as written in Resolution 18, states:
NCSSMA will advocate with the Deputy Commissioner for Operations (DCO) to ensure that the removal of a management official in which an administrative investigation is ongoing is not automatic. NCSSMA will seek assurances from the DCO that such action should only be taken in unusual situations and should be the exception, rather than the rule, pending the outcome of the investigation.
We intend to work with the Deputy Commissioner for Operations to modify the policy regarding routinely removing management because of an allegation resulting in an administrative investigation, unless there is a legitimate justification for doing so. NCSSMA is not generally made aware if a member of management is removed from an office prior to, or during, an investigation.
If you find yourself the subject of an administrative investigation and believe that you may be unjustly removed from your position, you should communicate this to your regional management association leadership. NCSSMA and the respective regional management associations cannot directly represent our members, but we can provide advice and speak up about any situation we believe is unjustified.
NCSSMA and I are strong proponents of Professional Liability Insurance. The cost of a $1 million policy is approximately $290. Reasonable as that is, SSA will actually reimburse you for half of the premium amount once you’ve reached the end of the policy year. Professional Liability Insurance provides you with legal representation and indemnity protection to protect you and your family from the risks and financial consequences of a claim or allegation made against you in the performance of your federal job duties.
Visit us online at www.NCSSMA.org