FEBRUARY 2017

 

Social Security Disability Newsletter

 


Social Security Disability:
Current Events

Federal Hiring Freeze Will Likely Worsen Backlogs

 

Federal Hiring Freeze Will Likely Worsen Backlogs

As everyone connected with the Social Security disability process is aware, the backlog of hearings at the Administrative Law Judge level is increasing. According to a recent 2016 report from the Office of the Inspector General, more than 1.1 million Americans are waiting for ALJ hearings with an average processing time of 526 days. Many hearings offices are dealing with backlogs much worse.

The cause of the backlog is due to multiple factors: Congress has continually rejected Social Security’s request for the funding necessary to run the programs; America’s Baby Boomer generation is aging with more complex retirement and disability issues; the aging of Social Security’s work force with many retirements of experienced staff has challenged office efficiency; and economic issues surrounding the recession generated many more applications.

Sadly, the recently announced hiring freeze by the new Administration is certain to worsen this backlog. While there was an exception for “national security or public safety responsibilities” there is no way of knowing at this time if that will apply to the Social Security disability process. It is also unknown if the Office Personnel Management will grant an exemption to allow SSA to hire more Judges and support staff.

Disability Beneficiary Numbers Decline In 2016

By the end of calendar year 2016, the number of Social Security disability beneficiaries declined by 1.13% from the prior year, meaning more than 100,000 fewer beneficiaries. This is a surprising statistic considering the aging Baby Boomer population which should increase the number of beneficiaries.

Causes for the decline could include: the increase in the number of applications denied at all levels of the disability process; the improved economy which allowed even disabled individuals to find jobs; the increasing backlog which caused some claimants to drop their applications; and the lower life expectancy for people on disability.

Social Security Administration Staffffing Has Decreased Again

The number of employees at Social Security decreased in fiscal year 2016 – at the end of the fiscal year in September the number of employees was 64,394, a drop from the prior fiscal year. This is the lowest staffing level for SSA since mid-2014.

By contrast, SSA had more than 70,000 employees in December 2010. This decline in staffing, with the increasing number of applications, along with the complexity of the programs, has contributed to the increasing backlog in claims and hearings. This obviously increases the hardships on the disabled and elderly in the United States.

If you wish to arrange for a review of these changes please call or email our office.



We Can Still Help
Call Our Offices For A Free Consultation

While battling backlog delays and regulatory changes, experienced advocates can still help deserving claimants obtain the benefits they deserve. While many ALJs and adjudicators are determined to make approvals more difficult, we can work with claimants, their medical providers and their families to help develop the evidence to prove eligibility. The earlier we can counsel prospective clients to get the proper medical treatment and to fully report symptoms increase the chance we will have the medical findings we need to prove our cases.
We look forward to working with you, your colleagues and your clients and patients in this effort to protect the rights of the disabled.


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