Will A New SSA Policy Reduce Disability Waitlists?

People on the waitlist to receive disability benefits are waiting for 17 months or longer to find out if their benefits have been approved or rejected. In the meantime, workers who can no longer perform their jobs fall into debt, lose their cars, and lose their homes. This means waiting for Social Security disability benefits can destroy your family, and the Social Security Administration wants to keep that from happening.

Will A New SSA Policy Reduce Disability Waitlists?

There are over 1.1 million people waiting for hearings about their disability benefits applications. These cases will be ruled on by administrative law judges (ALJ), but getting time in front of one of these ALJs can take months. However, the SSA wants to change that.

A new policy could allow administrative appeals judges (AAJ) to consider several of these cases and hopefully speed up the process. AAJs would be able to rule on “remanded” cases—those are benefits applications that have been sent back down from higher levels to be considered by appeals councils or an ALJ. There are around 30,000 remanded cases every year, and considering that the policy would also have AAJs ruling on certain overpayment cases, another 10,000 people could be pushed off the waitlist.

The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives—NOSSCR—is unsure of the step. ALJs have a lot of independence from the Social Security Administration, which allows for these judges to make fair and impartial decisions, but AAJs aren’t so independent. NOSSCR worries that claimants might not get a fair hearing if this new policy goes into effect, and they aren’t the only experts concerned.

The Association of Administrative Law Judges is completely against the policy, and the organization warns that hearings marked for ALJ consideration could be sent off to the SSA’s own handpicked judges, who could rule against the needs of the applicant.

We agree with the opinion of NOSSCR and the Association of Administrative Law Judges, but we would like your opinion. Do you think the SSA’s new policy could be a problem? Do you think it could help reduce the current waitlist? Log on to our Twitter and Facebook pages to let us know what you think.


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