This month's issue of the newsletter (not available online) of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) has an article prepared by the Social Security on priority processing at the Appeals Council, which has a huge backlog. Here's an excerpt:
A list of the Appeals Council-level cases with newly submitted evidence is generated several times a week. A group of employees has started screening the listed cases to see if they meet any of the 21 circumstances below. If so, the branch chief receives the case and assigns it for priority processing. The circumstances are:
(1) Age 55
(2) Any indication or report of death
(3) Hospice, nursing care, or claimant cannot care for personal needs
(4) Intensive care unit for more than 3 days
(5) Hospitalization for more than 7 days
(6) Transplant notes (kidney, heart, heart/lung, liver or bone marrow, etc.)
(7) Transplant waiting list
(8) Cancer with poor or no response to treatment
(9) Cancer that has spread to other areas/
(11) Heart attack or myocardial infarction
(12) Stroke, or cerebral vascular accident
(13) Prescribed use of home oxygen
(14) Prescribed use of wheelchair
(15) VA disability rating of 70% or more
(16) Letter or notice approving other forms of disability payments
(17) Medical report(s) of a terminal prognosis
(18) Dialysis or End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
(19) Blood transfusion(s)
(20) Bed or home confinement
(21) Very rare, unusual, or compassionate allowance diagnoses
Although attaining the age of 55 is on the list, it is not necessary to submit additional evidence of a claimant’s age as SSA also screens for this. If the claimant has died, representative correspondence to that effect is sufficient. NOSSCR is working with SSA to obtain written documentation of this practice.
To verify that the Appeals Council knows a client meets one of the 21 circumstances, call the Congressional and Public Affairs Branch at 1-877-670-2722 or fax Appeals Council Ombudsman Terry Jensen at 703-605-8691.
Cases that meet one of the 21 circumstances still should not be decided in less than 25 days unless the Appeals Council obtains permission from the claimant or representative to make a faster decision. See adjacent article on this page for more information.This is a far more extensive list of types of cases to be expedited than is used at the Administrative Law Judge level. Why shouldn't these cases by expedited at all levels?
I think the existence of these lists of types of cases to be expedited demonstrates the pressures caused by backlogs at Social Security. This isn't about helping people who are hurting. They're trying to expedite the cases that would make for good newspaper or television pieces on the suffering caused by the backlog.