Social Security Unveils Plan to Reduce Hearing Backlog

Posted March 11, 2016 by Premier Disability Services, LLC® The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) included a fascinating article in their February newsletter about the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) plan to reduce the wait times once a claimant reaches the hearing level. The plan is known as Compassionate and Responsive Service (CARES). Some of the key initiatives are briefly detailed below:
• Hire more Administrative Law Judges and support staff
• Use Attorney Adjudicators to hear certain cases (i.e. remands, non-disability claims)
• Expand the National Adjudication Team
• Accelerate the pre-hearing conference pilot

To be clear, some of these initiatives are not necessarily new, but they are being expanded as part of this plan. Specifically, the National Adjudication Team (NAT) is already in existence. They are a team of attorneys from around the country who pull cases for review to determine whether they can be decided favorably without the need for a hearing. Through this plan, the NAT program would be expanded from 20 attorneys to 50 or 60 attorneys. SSA’s plan to hire more ALJs and support staff is also not necessarily a new initiative but could be very successful if expanded. Through these two initiatives, more cases could be heard at a faster rate or decided without the need for a hearing. This would go a long way toward reducing the backlog of cases SSA is experiencing at the hearing level.

According to NOSSCR’s newsletter, there are nearly 1.1 million claimants awaiting a hearing in front of an ALJ. This translates to an average processing time of 512 days. Social Security Disability claimants are frankly not in a position to wait this long to have their cases reviewed. It is a very positive step for SSA to recognize this problem and take the proper steps to reduce this backlog. It will be interesting to see how this plan is implemented over the next few years.

By: Thomas A. Klint of Premier Disability Services, LLC®