The Social Security Administration (SSA) is attempting to cut through the backlog of cases by claimants seeking Social Security disability (SSD) benefits, according to an article by The Huffington Post. Currently, some individuals who have applied for SSD benefits are waiting more than 500 days to receive a decision from the government in regards to their application.
The backlog of one million cases exists in part because of the record number of individuals in the demographic age that is eligible to apply for Social Security benefits, as well as by the fact that the government more often than not denies first-time claims. Most initial claims are usually denied on the grounds of medical reasons or improper documentation, as discussed in our previous blog post.
In order to cut down on the backlog, the government is amending the process for appealing denied SSD claims. Previously, around 30,000 cases per year were remanded to lower level administrative law judges, who receive a large degree of autonomy from agency pressures. Going forward, cases that are remanded will instead be heard by administrative appeals judges, who lack the same level of independence.
The National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR), which advocates for the attorneys representing Social Security disability applicants, is cautious of the change in process. While the agency applauds the efforts to reduce the backlog, it emphasizes the need for claimants to be heard in front of judges that have judicial independence in order to ensure that claims are fairly heard. For its part, the agency has also been attempting to hire more administrative law judges.
Currently, some nine million Americans receive disability benefits through Social Security, averaging $1,022 per month per individual, according to the Huffington Post.