Feb 18, 2015

Where's The Outrage?

     From the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) newletter (not available online) this is a report on Social Security hearing office processing time as of the end of January. Note that the "fastest" office is processing requests for hearings in 295 days while the slowest is taking more than two years. Tell me again how Social Security is using video hearings to even workloads around the country. The bigger problem, though, is that there is little public notice of these disgraceful backlogs.


22 comments:

Anonymous said...

You will also note that the National Hearing Centers are not included in the report from SSA. I think they like to keep the average processing times at the NHCs a secret so they can spread the mistruth that its quicker for a VTC hearing.

Anonymous said...

more than a little disingenuous to criticize the effectiveness of video hearings at helping with the backlog while declining them en mass personally and working professionally to undermine their implementation, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Reps and claimants have nerve making complaints about the backlog when they decline video hearings designed to reduce backlogs or give quicker decisions.

Signed
beneficiary

Dan Smith said...

While it's obviously the administration's responsibility to work its way through the backlog, there are some common practices amongst reps that certainly exacerbate the problem (besides this video hearing controversy). I identified three such practices in a recent series i wrote on my blog: 1) failure to timely submit medical evidence, 2) excessively pedantic arguments and 3) failure to vet clearly meritless cases.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't help but notice Atlanta
(Region 4) is the worst and
last on the list. I am not surprised.
This ranking is consistent with the
dysfunctional, outdated, and
ill conceived management practices
unique to this Region for the past
17 years, and the utter failure of
management at the highest levels
in the Agency, i.e., Acting
Commissioner Carolyn Colvin,
to acknowledge and address the
problem, and take aggressive
corrective action to once and
for all remedy the situation.

Anonymous said...

Dan: no, reps do not exacerbate the backlog problem. Asking for an in-person hearing means that you are doing your job as an advocate for your client. As it has been discussed in previous comment sections, there is no difference in waiting time for a VTC versus an in-person hearing. Failing to timely submit medical evidence, when it happens, is typically the fault of the doctor or hospital office. When that happens, the ALJ grants a 2 week post to receive it. How does that add to the overall hearing backlog? Lastly, weak arguments and failing to vet meritless cases will put an attorney out of business. In this low-paying environment, attorneys are being more picky, not less, in the cases they accept. In my opinion, the easiest way to fight this backlog (if SS won't hire new ALJs or more staff), is to reinstitute senior attorney favorable decision writing. There are many cases that, while not terminal, obviously meet the disability criteria and will be paid by the ALJ. Comb through the 55+ claimants awaiting hearing and many of those could be correctly awarded without waiting for hearings.

Dan Smith said...

I completely disagree that missng records are typically the "fault" of doctors or hospitals. Even if an office is being less than forthcoming, it's the atty's job to follow up and keep track of what records are missing. My experience is that missing records is almost always the result of the attorney's office failing to communicate effectively with their client and/or follow up with sources. To answer your question, every time a file gets picked up again, there's a significant amount of time spent reacquainting one's self with the file. When records come in piecemeal after the hearing, that's added workload on ODAR. You might argue that that time is insignificant but in the aggregate I contend it's substantial.

What you're saying about attorneys not making weak arguments or taking weak cases because it's bad for business doesnt account for the business model of the volume practice, of which there are many (and the cumulative effect of which results in increased backlog)

Johnny Cash said...

Dan, the weak cases still go to hearing unrepresented and take up more time with multiple hearings and the need for development by ODAR (if they decide to do it).

You must live in a world with skittles, rainbows and unicorns based on the ease with which you get records. My staff have to make multiple requests followed by multiple phone calls and then more calls to the copy service who then tells us they are 60 days behind in process requests.

The reason for the backlog that no one at SSA wants acknowledge is the poor decisions coming from the DDS. Fix that and you fix the problem.

Dan Smith said...

Oh my! MULTIPLE phone calls?! Someone should start a GoFundMe for them.....

Anonymous said...

Sounds like SSA reps trying to get information from claimants once they're on the rolls, lol, gotta love it!!!

Anonymous said...

Dan, you're an idealist, and quite possibly naive to boot. Our firm follows up repeatedly with providers. However, a certain group of providers in our area is notorious for late submissions. We've tried everything, including HIPAA complaints and subpoena requests, to no avail. We request records early and follow up often. Your ivory-tower view of representing claimants just isn't accurate. Perhaps you'd be better suited working for the administration; you certainly seem to kowtow to it frequently.

Anonymous said...

Dan, these backlog stats track the time it takes from request for hearing to hearing held date. ODAR does not wait until the case is fully up to date with all records before scheduling so your concern with incomplete files, while maybe an issue for discussion at another time, has nothing to do with the ever increasing backlog.

Dan Smith said...

Time will tell whose view is more accurate.

I'd think if these doctors' offices were so notorious for late submissions, you'd make it a point to order their records earlier than usual. When my staff used to encounter an obstinate provider I'd usually go through several strategies to get records. I have all of them written down somewhere but the main strategies were (in order):

1) politeness
2) begging ("my boss is going to give me hell if i don't get these records in time")
3) guilt-tripping ("this patient has waited so long for their hearing and is going through rough times. If we dont get these records in time it will jeopardize their case")
4) browbeating ("let me talk to your supervisor")
5) legal threats (HIPAA complaints)
6) notifying the client and enlisting their help
7) notifying the judge and requesting subpoena

Anonymous said...

Good advice and sound strategies to get records but the delays in scheduling are unrelated to whether or not records are obtained as 10:19 said above.

Dan Smith said...

I'm not saying we can clear the backlog by getting records in on time, just that it's a contributing factor (explained above)

Anonymous said...

Dan: Requesting records early because the provider is slow to respond fails to solve the problem that the claimant continues to see the provider up to the time of the hearing. As such, if you request early then a subsequent request is required.

I tend to concur with 10:19AM re your ivory tower mentality. Obviously records issues are not present in the vast majority of cases but you seem to be a complete denier.

Anonymous said...

Again, no one wants to point the finger at the DDS and their poor decision making as the root of the problem for the backlog.

In our state, the DDS has such a high turnover of adjudicators that the majority of them have less than a couple years experience. They do a piss poor job of development and routinely make the most inaccurate of vocational analyses.

Anonymous said...

All this arguing over why misses the point. Where is the outrage?

I have always wondered how the U.S. Federal govt. can put people on the moon. However, they cannot hear disability claims in under a year start to finish.

The process works when the time from initial app to hearing decision is 1 year or less. You must be disabled for at least 1 year. That would be optimum. They are far from it right now.

Anonymous said...

One year is approaching the absolute quickest ODAR could possibly do considering the amount of times the law allows claimants to appeal, etc.

You all need to understand, too, that the Agency's needs today are not its needs forever. It could hire a ton of people to get through this glut, but what do you do 5-10 years later when we aren't nearly as busy?

Anonymous said...

Adjust the workforce to the workflow.

Justin

Anonymous said...

So you're cool with potentially firing (RIF'ing, as we would call it) a bunch of employees once your backlog (and rep fees) is gone? That's quite charitable of you.

I'm not exagerrating--to get the process down to a year or under would require a TON of hiring. So much so that I can't imagine there's any way natural attrition would thin out the herd as the backlog shrank. So then you'd wind up with way more employees than needed in a decade or so.

Anonymous said...

@1:34PM What is wrong with adjusting the work force to fit the demand? That is what "normal" businesses do. Why should federal employees expect to be immune to the normal forces at work that caused them to be hired to begin with and could result in their being let go as well?

If my caseload increases to the point that my current staffing levels cannot manage it, I hire more staff. If my caseload decreases to the point I have more staff than I need, I reduce my staff. Seems pretty simple, unless of course you are a fed.