It took a little longer than I thought it would (in part because I was also doing other things, in part because I kept letting the full content of the documents disctract me) to create the it, but here, attached, is a log of correspondence from members of Congress to the Office of Administrative Law Judges of the U.S. Department of Labor covering the months of January and February: OALJ Log.
When Anu and I started this project, our sense was and still is that constituents should be aware of what members of Congress do in Washington. In addition to overseeing executive branch agencies through their committees, members individually write to them–often on behalf of constituents–inquiring about matters before the agencies.
That’s pretty much what the Office of Administrative Law Judges correspondence shows–the bulk of the letters, 37 out of 40, request information on the status of black lung claims made by constituents. (“Hearings concerning black lung benefits and longshore workers’ compensation constitute the largest part of the office’s work,” according to its Web site.) There was also one letter inquiring about back wages owed to San Diego-area security guards which was fowarded to the Associate Solicitor of Fair Labor Standards, a letter about a worker’s compensation claim and another giving information for an OSHA case.
Rep. Rick Boucher inquired about the most cases–he sent 19 letters, plus a fax requesting updates on 7 other cases–followed by Rep. Harold Rodgers and Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (6 each). FedSpending.org shows that Rahall, Rodgers and Boucher’s districts are one, two and three in terms of dollar amounts for federal assistance for Coal Mine Workers’ Compensation, which provides “benefits to coal miners who have become totally disabled due to coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), and to widows and other surviving dependents of miners who have died of this disease.”
The log covers two months of congressional correspondence–it will be interesting to see, as we get more information from the Office of Administrative Law Judges in the coming months–if this actually represents a pattern, or is just a statistical blip. It’s also interesting that there are no letters about longshore workers’ compensation claims–I have no idea why not.
I’m going to write a bit more on the individual letters a little later.