Is the Disability Waitlist a Sign of Mismanagement?

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When a disability claim is denied, the claimant eventually has the option to have their case reviewed by an administrative law judge (ALJ). However, getting such a hearing can take a long time. The most recent estimate for how long it takes to see an ALJ is 633 days, almost two years. What is the cause of this disability waitlist, and is there any way to fix it?

Is Mismanagement a Reason the Disability Waitlist Is So Long?

Judge Marilyn Zahm, the president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, recently talked to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution(AJC) about the 1.1 million claimant long backlog. She points to a lack of leadership at the Social Security Administration, short staffs, and inefficient handling of cases as the culprits for the waitlist.

As president of the nationwide body that many of our ALJ’s belong to, Zahm has suggested more efficient ways to handle “non-controversial” cases. This could speed up tens of thousands of cases, but her suggestions have gone unheeded as have decision templates she had drafted to speed up the paperwork process.

Another problem she points to is the short staffing every ALJ in the nation is dealing with. At one time, each judge had their own clerk that would handle pertinent logistics. According to Zahm, these clerks are now in such short supply that they are shared between several judges. Each clerk is assigned to a case via a pool arrangement and often must deal with several judges.

Finally, the Social Security Administration has been without a clear leader for over four years, and it is taking its toll. Zahm says the administration is losing its cohesion and is overreacting to scandals on the news. It has gone so far that some judges are being encouraged to deny claims.

In 2010, ALJ has denied 25 percent of claims and approved 62 percent. In 2016, they denied 35 percent and approved some 46 percent. Those cases that were neither denied nor approved were usually dismissed or withdrawn by the claimant after delays lasting up to and over a year.

These are the factors that Zahm believes is causing the disastrous disability hearing waitlist. Do you think she is right? What other reasons could be causing these delays? The Tulsa disability attorneys at Troutman & Troutman, P.C. will continue to investigate these reasons to hopefully find solutions.

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