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Jan 24, 2012

Hearing Backlogs To Improve?

     From the testimony of Social Security Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Colvin at today's House Social Security Subcommittee hearing:
Due to tight budgets in fiscal years (FY) 2011 and 2012, we have suspended or postponed lower priority activities so that we can continue to achieve our most important goals—eliminating the hearings backlog and focusing on program integrity work. Our available funding in FY 2012 is almost $400 million less than what we operated with in FY 2010. At the same time, our fixed costs and our workloads continued to increase. We lost over 4,000 employees in FY 2011, and we expect to lose over 3,000 more employees this year that we cannot replace. We simply do not have enough staff to complete all of the work for which we are responsible, and we made strategic decisions about the areas in which we must do less with less.

Eliminating the hearings backlog remains our top priority. With the resources we received in FY 2012, we can still achieve our commitment to reduce the average hearings processing time to 270 days by the end of FY 2013 provided we are able to hire enough administrative law judges. It will be an extraordinary accomplishment because we have faced a significant increase in hearing requests due to the economic downturn. While we cannot afford to complete the level of program integrity work authorized under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) because Congress did not appropriate the full amount, we will increase the number of program integrity reviews that we conduct by 90,000 more full medical continuing disability reviews (CDR) this year.
 I don't know what's going on in other places but the hearing backlog is certainly growing where I am. Given the hiring freeze and the elimination of contract hearing reporters, it's hard for me to see anything other than an increase in hearing backlogs nationally over the next year.

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  • 10 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "90,000 more full medical continuing disability reviews (CDR) this year".


    Sounds like a witch hunt.

    12:09 PM, January 24, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    @ anon 12:09...sounds like not enough to me.

    12:51 PM, January 24, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    90,000 more reviews is one thing. The percentage of reviews that turn into cessations is what worries me. I have feeling that the cessations will increase at an exponentially greater rate than the number of actual reviews performed.

    12:57 PM, January 24, 2012  
    Blogger Nobbins said...

    Her report is primarily about the CDR's, not so much about the hearing backlog. She is trying to politely say that, "yes, congress, I know you want to make CDR's priority #1, but the hearing backlog is more important." Don't get caught up on it. This is just a report exploring the CDR process and the numbers to expect out of it.

    If it really were a blueprint for how she is going to reduce backlogs while doing "less with less," it is pretty useless. Not once does she mention what the agency is going to do "less" of. She mentions "lower priority activities," but never elaborates beyond that. But, like I said, that's not the point of this report anyway.

    1:08 PM, January 24, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    In the field, we have not been notified of any "lower priority activities" that we can stop doing. Instead, managment says everything is a priority. Anyone out there hearing anything different?

    1:27 PM, January 24, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    A lot of money can be saved (at least in this and the next fiscal years) by not filling expensive ALJ slots and comming up with alternative modes of ajudication.
    For example: Allowing for private neutral alternative resolution services by agreement of parties, use of less costly temporay law judges, etc.

    8:16 AM, January 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I agree with comment 8:16 AM, January 25, 2012


    Look at the federal savings that could be had with a $40,000 adjudicator compared to a $160,000 adjudicator.

    I believe if SSA would allow DDS independance this agency would be a better alternative to their alj corps.

    Signed,
    the disabled.

    9:30 AM, January 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    @ the disabled.

    If SSA got rid of ALJs, the pay rate would plummet to sub 20%..is that really what you want?

    11:49 AM, January 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "@ the disabled.

    If SSA got rid of ALJs, the pay rate would plummet to sub 20%..is that really what you want"?

    Not familiar with SSA's pay rate but SSA hiring cheaper alternatives to aljs seems to be a logical course of action. IF SSA allowed DDS to make more of a independant decision subject to slight review,it would help balance the budget and equality in the process.

    Signed,
    the disabled.

    12:01 PM, January 25, 2012  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    To: Anon 12:57 One should remember that all cessations are subject to appeal with payment continuation through to and including the ALJ level. Even if the termination is upheld the overpayment should be waived if the appeal was made in good faith.

    A significant number of cessations are reversed upon appeal and those actually terminated is greatly diminished.

    2:12 PM, January 25, 2012  

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