Nov 28, 2015

Hearing Delays Cause Suffering

     From the Associated Press:
Diabetes, arthritis and open-heart surgery have kept Sherice Bennett from working, but she can't afford her medicine and became homeless while waiting for more than two years for a chance to convince a judge that she qualifies for federal disability benefits.
Maria Ruiz also is waiting to appeal her denial; meanwhile, she's been in and out of psychiatric wards since being diagnosed as bipolar, and hasn't been able to buy her meds since August.
Still others die waiting. One man had already been dead for two months this summer before his request for a hearing reached the desk of Miami Judge Thomas Snook. He ultimately approved the claim and the man's spouse will collect his benefits.
 Overburdened administrative judges are working through huge caseloads of these appeals all over America, but Miami has the country's longest average wait for a hearing, at 22 months. And while they wait, many slip into poverty, burdening their families and dragging down the economy. ...
Delays in other cities are nearly as bad: Brooklyn, New York; Spokane, Washington; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Fort Myers, Florida, have 20-month waits. Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Chattanooga, Tennessee, are close behind with 19 months. The shortest wait time is eight months in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The national average is about one year and four months, according to the Social Security Administration, and petitioners typically wait another four to five months for a decision after the hearing. ...
The agency's current goal is to reduce the wait to 270 days or less by 2020. A pre-hearing triage program has begun, and the hiring of 400 more judges is planned by 2018.


Anonymous said...

pffft these stories about one remand or two and waiting ...I have been thru 3 remand hearings, presently in appeals council in falls church awaiting a flat out decision or another remand hearing and WAITING for a Desperate NEED designation as I fell into Foreclosure on the 16th of November 2015, yeah like hello Desperate need here, and not even crickets chirping for an answer yet on the Desperate need status. Wake up unless you are a democrat non or recent citizen. I guess as a life long hard working american citizen who was injured I can forget receiving my insurance benefit I fully quality for that is absolutely justifiably owed. I'll just die of Cancer first that is what they want for us to die before collecting our justified insurance benefit. Wake up people and start a movement on Facebook or something for people being flat out denied for benefits that absolutely should be bestowed upon those who qualify.

Anonymous said...

>>>oh yeah I for got in addition to waiting well over a week for a Desperate need designation, my ORIGINAL case filed in 2008 has been dragging thru ALJ's who cant follow the rules they are supposed to follow being pointed out by appeals council 3 times so far waiting on a fourth appeals council decision! The SSD system is filled with corruption! NO DOUBT!

Anonymous said...

@Anon 4:30

I can understand why you would be frustrated with a 7 year long case still bouncing around in the appeal process. It's awful.

I don't see corruption as the cause of the problem. Social Security Judges don't get extra money for denying claims. Also, there are plenty of good Judges who call them like they see them and follow the rules.

My opinion on the problem follows. A relatively small group of Judges are regularly not following the rules. As a group the percentage of claims they approve is very noticeably below the national average. You might get some who deny almost all of a certain type of case which they may personally disfavor. If you had a frank talk with representatives who appear in front of these particular Judges you would get consistent reports that they don't follow certain rules that are critical to making the right call on certain types of deserving claims. I can't say if they do it on purpose, or because they don't understand the rules, but some do it.

Even if SSA knows this is going on, it is almost impossible for it to get rid of these few bad apples unless they clearly did something very stupid or illegal. Even then the Judges have a strong union which fights actions against them.

The Republican led Congress investigated this issue. However, they were only interested in attacking Judges who granted many more cases than the average. They were not very concerned about unjust denials from Judges not following the rules, who denied many more claims than the average. This sent a fairly clear signal, as you might imagine. The average percentage of cases approved by the Judges has dropped considerably in the past few years.

Anonymous said...

As bad as these numbers are, they understate the problem.

ODAR bases hearing wait times on cases closed in any particular month. The time given is how long did those claims wait until they are heard. Because they are only working with closed cases, and the time to get a decision after a hearing is now an additional 60-90 days, they are only reporting what was the case three months ago for cases already heard.They are also factoring in the Dismissals which are often after only 60 days, thus lowering the average while ignoring the typical experience for someone waiting for a hearing.

For cases now being scheduled, the hearing date in the office I am most familiar with is now 22-24 months. Yet, the posted time on the ODAR statistics for South Jersey in 18 months.

Simply, the SSA is lying about the waits to make a appalling situation look a little less disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

The Agency is a mess, no doubt and needs some real rehab. But keep complaining out loud folks without trying to bring about a solution and contracting is going to be a sure thing. You think there are a lot of denials now? Just wait when some quasi-insurance company mentality takes over.

You would be better served to gather some of the interested groups and have a real symposium on what a real fix would look like.

It might be painful for all involved, but it would be a lot less painful than what would happen if contractors have their way with the decision making/writing process.

Anonymous said...

Throughout the last 5 years, right about 50% of my clientele have lost their homes to foreclosure. A higher percentage of these former workers have had automobiles repossessed. In 2010, I looked through my case file and discovered that in 5% of my pending cases, the claimant had died prior to getting to a hearing. I'm now moving toward retirement, and have been reducing my caseload by farming out clients to a colleague. I had let the number of active cases fall to about 120 in this last year, and in 2 of those cases, the clients have died.

In a number of previous cases, DDS has agreed that my deceased clients were disabled--as of the date of death, which was caused by their impairments for which they had applied. Great system, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

7:45 am Totally agree. I appear at numerous offices in Southern California and this fall the ODAR reported wait times are on average 3 months less than the actual wait times.

Anonymous said...

These claimants wouldn't be dying or suffering if Obamacare was real. Such a joke. Where is the medical insurance for all the people he promised? What a farce. He should be impeached and deported.

Anonymous said...

@non 1:09

Where states allow it, the Medicaid expansion part of Obamacare is an improvement for the very poor (SSI claimants for instance). Sure it has problems, but it beats the heck out of being totally uninsured. Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. It's definitely better than the stale crumbs the Republicans propose.

Anonymous said...

It was the old rob Peter to pay Paul. Obama bought votes promising healthcare to everyone and then expected the States to foot the bill. Why didn't he do an "Executive" action and just open up Medicare to everyone and then the Feds would have had to pay for it. He had no control over the States and the people suffer. What a bimbo he is.