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Social Security Disability Case Hearing Delays 2017

FACTS

Hearings were postponed in 8 – 9% of the cases in 2012 – 16.

The hearing no-show rate for claimants in 2016 was 9%.

No relationship has been found between hearing scheduling and no shows/postponements. It has been attributed to the transient nature of claimants and limited staffing for providing follow-up hearing reminders. In addition, hearing offices with low no show rates have a low number of unrepresented claimants.

76 days elapsed between hearing scheduling and hearing held date in 2016. In 2017, the notification requirement was increased from 20 days to 75 days before the actual hearing.

A Pre-Hearing Conference Expansion pilot program initiated in January, 2016 was discontinued in January, 2017 due to a decision-writing backlog before it could be determined if the program had an effect on reducing no show/postponement rates.

Recommendations from SSA to reduce delays caused by no shows and postponements include:

∙ Using stronger language in the hearing notice so claimants understand that a failure to appeal at the hearing can result in a forfeit of the right to a future hearing

∙ Put the burden on claimants to notify SSA of address changes and create a presumption that failure to do so is evidence of their lack of interest in pursing the claim

∙ Making sure the SSA system incorporates changes reported by field offices

∙ Require claimants to decide if they want a representative before a hearing is scheduled

∙ Give administrative law judges the authority on reporting claimant representatives who are not taking responsibility for representing claimants (appearing at hearings while unprepared)

∙ Ensure sufficient staff hiring

Unfortunately, the Office of the Inspector General failed to address the main cause of no shows and postponements: the huge delays inherent in the Social Security disability claims process. These ridiculous delays, requiring persons to wait up to two years to have a hearing, result in undue hardships to claimants. During the waiting period, it is common for claimants to lose their homes or move their residences on multiple occasions due to a lack of funds to pay for these. In the process, contact with SSA and claims representatives are lost, resulting in a great number of no-shows and causing postponements. Of course, rather than take responsibility for the cause of the problem, SSA proposes solutions which either blame the claimant or the representative.

Posted in Social Security Disability Benefits | Tagged , , , |

 

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