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Nov 7, 2011

Backlogs Up But Processing Times Down; Disability Claims Soar While Unemployment Goes Down

Pending Hearing Cases At Social Security
     The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has posted its September report on Social Security's hearing backlogs. The number of pending cases is increasing significantly even though the average processing time is decreasing. TRAC's explanation of this is that the increase in pending cases is so recent that it has not yet significantly affected the average processing time. Above is one of TRAC's charts.
     Interestingly, Social Security's receipts of new disability claims appears to be continuing to rise even though the unemployment rate has been going down slightly over the past two years. How do you square these facts with the theory that unemployment is what is causing the bulge in disability claims? Wouldn't the rate of new disability claims have leveled off or gone down if unemployment is what is causing all these disability claims?

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  • 10 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The ranks of folks who can no longer find work, and whose unemployment benefits are exhausted rises and is not counted in the unemployment statistic (to my knowledge) One option for this population is to attempt to get on Disability.

    9:50 AM, November 07, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Most likely the majority of those who have gone from unemployed to employed were the healthier and more motivated, leaving plenty of people who have health problems (of varying degrees) and low motivation who may chose disability benefits over trying to find a job.

    9:54 AM, November 07, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    not to mention that the raw numbers of people is actually greater. Therefore, even though the percent of unemployed has decreased, the number of unemployed continues to rise.

    11:13 AM, November 07, 2011  
    Blogger No Saj said...

    How, exactly, did they expect to meet that backlog goal without a significant budget expansion for claims? I hope no one actually got paid money to come up with numbers like that.

    11:57 AM, November 07, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The solution is simple No Saj, more ALJs can do what SSA wants and pay claimants with little concern about whether the award is warranted. That is why there is a goal of 500 to 700 decisions a year per ALJ despite no rational basis for such a goal (especially since it allows for about 2.5 hours per case for all ALJ functions). That is why there has been an increase in agency employees as ALJs -- they already buy into the SSA policy of easy pays. That is why there are 100 ALJs who pay 90% or more of their cases and SSA sees no problem with that. It takes little time and effort to pay a case.

    2:36 PM, November 07, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The number of new receipts may be greatly impacted by the practice of taking technical denials from individuals who are clearly ineligible. As receipts are a driving force in staffing decisions every office is now encouraged to capture as many work credits as possible via the formal claims process. In the past an informal denial would have been sufficient.

    9:15 AM, November 08, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'd sure like to know where those ALJs paying 90% of the claims are. I suspect they are scattered throughout the various regions. They are also balanced out by those ALJs who will deny almost all of the claims.

    10:22 AM, November 08, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    91 judges pay 90% or more of their claims, compared to 1 judge who pays less than 10%, 7 total who pay less than 20%, and 29 total who pay less than 30%. In no way, shape, or form are those who pay 90% or more balanced by those who deny most of their cases.

    11:32 AM, November 08, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    My experience is most decent ALJs have an approval rate between 50-80%.

    Most bad ALJs grant below 40%. Those granting between 40-50% are suspect. No ALJ should really grant more than 80% or less than 40%. Anywhere in between I probably do not have a problem w/ an ALJ.

    2:08 PM, November 08, 2011  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Anon 11:32:

    Perhaps there is not a balance of very high approvals with very low approvals. However, I fail to see that there is a huge problem with the number of ALJs who approve most of the claims. According to SSA there are approximately 1400 ALJs total; if there are 91 who are approving 90% of the claims, that's only 6.5% of the total that has such a record. I hardly think that's cause for alarm. Are they perhaps biased in favor of claimants? Maybe, but since courts have often said that the claimant should get the benefit of the doubt, and since the DDS process is often designed to make a finding of no disability, regardless of the facts, I don't see why anyone would have a problem with such a statistic.

    10:22 AM, November 09, 2011  

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