Clients ask: Social Security, what is going on?

What’s going on with Social Security? My colleague, Jennifer L. Fisher, Attorney at Law in Marysville, Kansas, puts it like this:

“The system needs [to be] changed –  not starved, fed, or micromanaged. Until the fundamental systemic dysfunction is addressed, there will always be a problem du jour that detracts from claimants’ due process rights.  When there are too many cases in the system, quotas will be emphasized; when there is not enough money, pay rates will be emphasized.  When the two extremes collide, you have today’s climate.”

The ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE system is supposed to be insulated from outside influences so each case can be decided on its own merits.  For each individual claimant, it does not matter how many cases an ALJ paid or denied yesterday or how much money is in the trust fund.  A claimant who meets the criteria should be awarded benefits and one who does not should be denied.  If there are too many people on benefits, the law should be changed, not twisted to fit a political agenda.  Representing a client includes ensuring a fair forum for the adjudication of their claims – and working for change when it is not.”

According to data just released by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for fiscal year (FY) 2014, which ended Sept. 30, 2014, hearings before administrative law judges (ALJ) continue to take longer to process and their backlog continues to grow. This reverses gains the SSA had achieved in speeding up the process for obtaining a hearing decision from 2008 to 2012.

They now report hearings decided through September took an average of 422 days, a 40-day jump from FY 2013 (382 days) and a 69-day increase from FY 2012 (353 days).

In addition, the total number of hearings pending also increased to 977,736 in FY 2014, up 15.3 percent from FY 2013 (847,984).