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Category: Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Backlogs Exist Nationally

Social Security Disability

A newspaper in Oregon recently had a great article about Social Security Disability backlogs. The Oregonian submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Social Security Administration and interviewed several Administrative Law Judges to try to understand why it takes a claimant 650 days to get a Judge’s decision in Portland while the national average is 480 days. It should be noted that the frustration with backlogs is not particular to Portland, Oregon. Many of the same problems exist in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro. The article can be read here. Administrative Law Judges are supposed to decide 500 cases every year. According to statistics, only about 11% of the Judges hit this mark. The biggest problem, according to most of the Judges, is that there is insufficient staff to work up the cases. Each claimant has a file with the Social Security Administration that holds medical records, employment earnings records, and other documents that are necessary to determine whether the claimant qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits. It is extremely difficult for a Judge to make a decision when medical records are lacking or the file is a mess (an unorganized stack of several hundred documents is hard to make heads or tails of especially if you are asked to do it 500 times a year). Let’s hope the new Administration properly staffs the Hearing Offices.

This article was written by Chip Permar

Understanding SSA Denial Paperwork

It has finally been recognized that the Social Security Administration needs to provide more detail in denial notices. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined that denied claimants sometimes received communications with inconsistent or hard-to-understand information. Medical sources and reports were not clearly linked to how a determination was made. The SSA generally agreed with the GAO but said that it would require computer system changes with funding for information technology. The story can be read here.

I have read hundreds of application and reconsideration denials. The Social Security sends out these form letters and except for a few lines in a few paragraphs, the denials are always very similar. It is almost impossible to understand exactly what information was used to make the denial. It is nice to see that the GAO has called out the Social Security Administration and that there is a chance something will be done.

This article was written by Chip Permar

State DDS Jobs Should Be Secure

Because of action by Vice President Biden, job positions for state disability determination services (DDS) should be stable and free of hiring restrictions and unpaid mandatory leaves of absence. Biden asked Governor Ed Rendell, Chairman of the National Governor’s Association, to urge all US governors not to furlough or downsize their DDS departments. If all DDS personnel are able to continue with their jobs, then social security benefits for the disabled will not be disrupted or delayed. Commission Astrue noted that state-wide reductions would save no money from state budgets because salaries and overhead are self-funded from within the department. With this plea from Vice President Biden, the heavy workload that our country’s DDS program manages for more than 12 million citizens, and the predicted increase in the number of claims, should continue to be handled without concern of DDS employees losing their jobs. And that should keep the system moving along.

This article was written by Todd P. Oxner

Backlogs In Social Security Disability

The backlog of applications for SSD at the initial application stage certainly is increasing with some of it caused by the slump of the economy. The SSA projects that by 2011 another 500,000 claims will be initiated due in part to the ongoing recession. Across the country, there has been an increase in new claims through May 2009 of almost 13%, compared to this same time in 2008. A much higher pending workload of these claims (more than a 26% increase) is leading to much longer processing times. Now, more than ever, it’s important to have the assistance of an attorney to stay on top of a claim and to be sure it’s filed correctly.

This article was written by Chip Permar

SSD, SSI Benefits and Same Sex Marriages

While gay marriages may be recognized in some states, the Social Security Administration, as a Federal office, does not give them validity. The Defense of Marriage Act prohibits any acknowledgement. As such, benefits are not distributed to a spouse if there is a same-sex marriage. As a result, couples will need to consider if a union is in their best financial interest.

This article was written by Chip Permar