There are over one million people waiting to have their claim heard by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It’s a huge backlog, and it means that some of these people could be waiting as long as 500 days to have their requests for benefits heard. Does that seem unfair to you? Well, you’re not alone, and some officials want to do something to help.
Could New SSA Measures Help Reduce Wait Times?
When someone files for Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI), their claims are often initially rejected. However, this is not the end of the road when it comes to getting benefits. Applicants that feel like their claim wasn’t properly evaluated can ask for a reconsideration of the SSA’s rejection. If the application is rejected a second time, this is the point in the process were everything slows down.
Applicants for SSDI that had their application rejected twice must then argue their case before an administrative law judge (ALJ). But the list to appear before an ALJ is long, and in the meantime, applicants can lose their houses or even die while they wait for disability benefits. To try to shorten this backlog, the SSA wants to take some cases from the ALJs and send them to administrative appeals judges (AAJ). However, there’s a problem.
What Is The Problem With This Plan?
You see, ALJs are required to be independent of the SSA by the Administrative Procedure Act. This shields these judges from being pressured by the agency, and AAJs aren’t shielded in the same way. This has led to controversy.
The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) isn’t quite convinced that this is the right move. NOSSCR’s director of government affairs—Lisa Ekman—said that though the organization is behind decreasing wait times, it is important that claimants are heard by a qualified judicially independent ALJ.
This issue was reviewed by a congressional hearing led by Oklahoma’s very own Senator James Lankford. But concerns seem to have halted any changes to the system. Are there any other options lawmakers can explore to tackle this backlog? Tell us what you think on Twitter and Facebook.
Brought to you by the Tulsa disability attorneysat Troutman & Troutman.