Elkind & Shea

Quick Contact

Challenges and Concerns at SSA – Fall, 2016

The good news at the Social Security Administration (SSA) is that more hearings are being scheduled, coming close to the rate of hearings going on three years ago before the great slowdown resulting in a backlog of over one million hearing level cases.

Obviously, allowing delays to where one million hearing cases exists is a national disgrace. Most of the persons waiting for hearings are citizens who paid into the Social Security system throughout their work lives. At a time when an estimated 63% of Americans cannot afford an unexpected bill of $500, it is a given that waiting for a hearing for one to two years will result in bankruptcy, loss of homes, loss of cars, and, in more cases than it should occur, loss of a supporting spouse. Putting citizens through financial misery in order to receive a relatively small monthly benefit is reprehensible. In 2016, the average monthly benefit is $1,116 with a maximum benefit of $2369 for top wage earners. No one is “living large” on Social Security disability benefits.

But, of course there remain challenges to the system which are preventing SSA from clearing the hearing backlog. The first problem is the ongoing concern of Congressional funding. As it stands, the SSA allotted budget is insufficient to fund ongoing operations without up to two weeks of furloughs for employees during which time all offices would be closed to the public. Further, a full hiring freeze would be instituted resulting in service degradation as well as increased wait times and system delays. This would only put more hardship upon this nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

The budget problem is long simmering in nature with its budget shrinking 10% since 2010 while beneficiaries have increased 12%. The current fight concerns President Obama’s request for a $522M in increase in funding for 2017 while House Republicans have countered with a $772M cut in funding including a spending reduction of $582M.

Further, Acting SSA Commissioner Carolyn Colvin has been in her position since 2/13/13 without ever being installed as in the position of full Commissioner of SSA. House Republicans are responsible for this inaction as well.

Not all the blame goes on the GOP. A substantial number of administrative law judges (ALJs) have become discontented with SSA’s requirement that they schedule 50 hearings a month in order to increase processing of cases and clear the immense backlog. Some ALJs have taken the approach of scheduling 50 hearings a month, then continue many cases for invented reasons such as needing additional evidence, allowing a vocational evidence to review new evidence, ordering a consultative examination, among other excuses. This conduct reduces the number of cases for which decisions are rendered. Further, when the delayed cases are rescheduled, the are again counted toward the 50 cases of the subsequent month. In this way, ALJs are passively resisting doing more work in order to reduce the hearing backlog.

For these reasons, it is clear that SSA faces challenges from outside and within which will prevent the clearance of the one million case backlog for any time in the forseeable future.

Posted in Social Security Administration, SSA | Tagged , , |


Privacy Policy & Web Site Disclaimer:
We collect only the personal information you provide to us and we do not distribute it to any third parties. Any legal information offered by Elkind & Shea, The Disability Benefits Law Firm, regarding social security disability benefits, long term disability benefits, short term disability benefits, ERISA, long term care denial and life insurance denial or other legal information offered herein is not formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney client relationship. All communications with counsel are confidential in accordance with the applicable Rules of Professional Responsibility which require that even consultations without retention are held confidential.
This privately-owned web site is not in any way affiliated or endorsed by the United States government or the Social Security Administration.