Skip to content

National Association of Disability Representatives Annual Conference Update

2016 March 24
by Steve Perrigo

Unfortunately, service issues and workloads continue to hinder the SSDI program and growing backlogs, according to Social Security Administration (SSA) acting-Commissioner Carolyn Colvin and other agency officials, who spoke at the recent annual Social Security Law Conference held by the National Association of Disability Representatives (NADR).

Ms. Colvin said the agency has hired 53 administrative law judges (ALJs) this fiscal year, with a goal of adding 250. They anticipate receiving the same budget in FY 2017 as FY 2016. But as fixed costs increase—for example, $150 million allocated for a building renovation—efforts to address the hearing backlog will be hindered.

SSA Deputy Commissioner Terrie Gruber, who oversees the Office of Disability Adjudication & Review (ODAR), was frank with her assessment, stating “we have a service crisis.”

The level of pending claims will grow, as will wait times, she reported. In addition, the number of video teleconference (VTC) hearings peaked in 2014, failing to provide efficiencies as first anticipated.

There is some good news. The ODAR plans to add to its National Adjudication Team, whose attorney advisors provide pre-hearing claims review. The team of 25 of attorney advisors is expected to grow to 60, and so far has reviewed 5,000 claims, awarding 10 percent of those based on the record (OTR).

Another new development specifically to address the hearing backlog is falling under the Appeals Council, which will, for a limited time, hold hearings rather than remand cases back to ALJs.

There are now approximately 1.2 million claimants waiting on a hearing decision, with an average wait time of 505 days, as measured from the date the hearing was filed to the date of decision. The latest SSA data shows the longest waits are in Brooklyn with 733 days (more than two years) and Miami, with 707 days. Twenty-two hearing offices now have waits of more than 600 days.

Comments are closed.