It's no secret that the Social Security Administration faces a tremendous
backlog of disability claims to evaluate and process. SSA spokesman Mark Hinkle
told Huffington Post that the agency is "in the midst of a public service crisis."
Perhaps even more worrisome, however, is what reporters learned the agency
is doing to improve efficiency. Up until recently, appealed claims that
are remanded for reconsideration were handed back down to an administrative
law judge. Now, the SSA is having some of those same cases handed to administrative
appeals judges. The change may look minute, but could have negative ramifications
That's because administrative appeals judges are not hired or overseen
by the same standards as administrative law judges. Administrative law
judges are shielded from institutional pressures, performance reviews,
and bonus evaluations. Administrative appeals judges are not, calling
their impartiality into question.
"We're supportive of the agency taking steps with the resources
they have to address the number of people waiting," said Lisa Ekman,
NOSSCR's director of government affairs. "But we’re also
very concerned about claimants getting a hearing in front of an administrative
law judge that has qualified judicial independence as required by the
Administrative Procedure Act."
The Association of Administrative Law Judges doesn't even believe the
new policy is legal. "They have launched an initiative that is not
in the best interest of the American public," said association president
Marilyn Zahm. "What the Social Security Administration plans to do
now is to divert subsets of cases from hearings before ALJs to hearings
before their own handpicked people."
Reportedly, the remanded cases that will be shunted away from administrative
law judges involve SSD claimants who have returned to work after receiving
benefits. It's estimated that there are roughly 10,000 of these cases—a
third of the approximated 30,000 cases that are flagged for reconsideration
in federal court.
While the new policy is controversial, everyone agrees that something must
be done for 1.1 million people waiting for a decision on their SSD claim.
"For some people this results in a wait of over 17 months to receive
a hearing decision," wrote Mark Hinkle, "which we concede is
If you believe you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, ensuring
that your claim avoids the appeals process has never been more important.
Contact the experienced Dallas SSDI attorneys at
Coats & Todd to best prepare your claim and make sure that it stands the very best
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Start exploring your options today with us today. Use our online form to
free case evaluation.