Jun 30, 2017

ALJ Decision Backlog Increasing

     From what amounts to a press release:
After waiting an average of 583 days for their Social Security disability hearings, 1.1 million Americans will likely face another months-long wait before receiving the judge’s decision, according to Allsup. ... A review of Allsup data shows the wait time to learn if former workers will or won’t receive the insurance benefit now averages 78 days.

The wait time for post-hearing decisions to be issued has increased from an average 56 days in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 78 days in the first quarter of 2017, according to Allsup data. Social Security disability claimants are waiting an average 19 months to receive a hearing, and they do not receive their final decision until after the hearing, when the administrative law judge (ALJ) issues the results.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fewer employees + insufficient administrative funding + congress that doesn't want to do anything about it = larger backlog. Anyone surprised?

Anonymous said...

From an ALJ: Well, Allsup, there is rarely a hearing in which your company is representing a claimant where you have all of the evidence in at the time of the hearing. Because the case has to go into POST, waiting for you to finally submit the evidence, the decision is delayed until you finally get YOUR work done.

Anonymous said...

There are also an unprecedented number of ALJ decision instructions languishing in writing status b/c the last few rounds of ALJ hiring did not include increasing writing and clerical support.

Anonymous said...

Is Allsup still relevant?

Anonymous said...

Like I trust Allsup data, guess that's the bar now that Conn is out of business.

Anonymous said...

I don't work for Allsup, but there is a definite slow down in the writing process in my area. We were getting most decisions within 2 months, 3 months max. Now, while some judges get theirs out within a few weeks, most are taking closer to 3 months. I am still waiting for 2 decisions from February. Longest wait in last year is 5.5 months. And yes, the evidence was all turned in before the hearing.

Anonymous said...

Spot on, @7:45.

There is a long period of time between the hearing/instructions and the ALJ getting the decision back. Anything going into POST is going to add to that slow down because then the case goes into the ALJ's post-hearing review status, and it's not as if they can simply review and issue instructions right at the moment it's back in their name.

The increasing delay is going to lead to more remands as well as there will inevitably be more medical treatment during a 60-90 day period, and when the rep submits such evidence with the appeal, the AC will simply assume it is new and material to the period at issue (regardless of whether it actually is) and send it back for further consideration.

Anonymous said...

It always amazes me when someone says this or that action by ALJs will “increase the remands” at the Appeals Council.
Really? The latest Waterfall chart shows 13% remands at the AC – compare this to 49% remands at the federal court level. If you are depending on the Appeals Council to correct or even notice anything, you are mistaken. And by the way with Federal Court Remands at 49%, the AC is missing significant issues. Additionally, the whole appeal back log grows even when you count the claimants who give up or die in the process. I am sure there are some good people in the Appeals Council who work hard and want to do the right thing. However, the only way the appeals council will ever reduce backlogs is by conducting a valid review and I have never seen that. Instead, shut down the AC, take the AC employees left and assign them OTRs or real chores at ODAR. That will decrease backlogs.

Anonymous said...

Just got a denial after waiting 10+ months for a decision. Unconscionable.

Anonymous said...

As an ALJ, the decision backlog is generally not due to the ALJ. As mentioned above, there's POST hearing development. Cases can stay in POST for 30-60 days waiting for rep's to get medical evidence (not always, but sometimes years old, and lots of times very recent, duplicative, and unhelpful, but in the interest of a full and fair opportunity to present the case, when asked for, ALJ's will oblige). ALJ's (in my office, anyway), write their instructions within hours, or a day or two at the most, of closing the hearing (and POST, as the case may be). Then, it sits. And sits. For many weeks, it is unassigned. Then a writer is assigned the case and it can take several more days (even though they are hounded with 4 and 8 hour limits to review and write cases). ALJ's who are not on leave generally edit and sign their decisions within a couple of days of them being returned to them from the writers.

@9:20 - denials are given lowest priority, generally, because it's not going to change things for the claimant. A couple of months ago, our office was pushing the fully favorable decisions, with others being put on hold. Frustrating? Absolutely. But, until there are more writers and staff to move cases along before they get to the ALJ and after it leaves the ALJ's hands, backlogs will rise and decisions will be delayed.

Tim said...

8:12 AM. To say it doesn't change things for the claimant is not totally true. Until they receive that denial, they still have hope. Hope, that the nightmare will be finally over. Hope, that they'll finally be able to repay their families that have kept them from the depths of disaster. Once that hope is gone, utter disparity takes over. In my case, it took a couple of months to get better. Suicidal thoughts became hard to ignore. The family members who have helped me are financially strained because of it, and that won't change until... Pressure to do "something" intensifies. However, your ability to do "something" has become so limited that no reasonable person would hire you if your honest with them. Not even for a few hours a week. As for the Appeals Council, take that sentiment of Luke in SW ANH, "but, it's a whole 'nother year!" and multiply it by a trillion or in Dumb and Dumber... "More like one in a million." "So, you're telling me there's a chance...?" About as much chance of them paying back the IOUs. That briefcase full of IOUs is the perfect metaphor for Al Gore's "locked box" of SS IOUs from the rest of the government.

Teresa Santistevan said...

We had all information and several letters from people who knew my son before and after his disability. Yet the ALJ AND SSI ADMINISTRATION act as if they are paying the disabled out of their pockect. Get over yourselves and give those with brain injuries and stroke injuries breathing disorders and so many other illnessess. People work and pay into this. Who are you people to make a decision if they are disabled or not?

Heather Christopher said...

@ 8:13 AM... I have a stupid question. You said priority is given to "fully favorable" decisions... Does that mean "partially favorable" decisions are put on the back burner as well?

Anonymous said...

Had my hearing 11-29-17. Still waiting for a decision. Told it could be 120 days. That was bad enough! Seeing people’s posts saying they’ve waited up to 10+ months is horrifying to think about!! Does it take longer if you’ve been approved? Does the saying, “no news is good news” apply here?

Heather Christopher said...

@1:24AM i had my hearing on on 9/28/17 and still no word. From what i am told the longer the wait the more likely tje outcome is bad. As stated above "favorable" decisions take priority plus denials are harder to write so they get put on back burner. I think its its absolutely repulsive to do this to someone that is denied the decisions should be written in order recieved... I mean think about it the ones approved their fight is over. Those denied have to decide their next step... Appeals Council, new application, find a job that IF (big IF) hired they most likely won't be able to keep, or end their suffering as they just a burden to others and then at least their children could collect survivors benefits... FYI i am NOT suicidal i just listed it as an option that someone may choose when put in this horrible situtation. So since i am right at 120 days i am 95% sure i have bad news coming... I can only pray that I am wrong and it will at least be a partially favorable decision and that's why its taking so long. I put it in God's hands and pray every day... I pray for my judge and the other judges as i do feel terrible for these judges it can't be easy to hold another's fate in your hands. May God be with them and help them in making the right decisions.

Heather Christopher said...

@1:24AM i had my hearing on on 9/28/17 and still no word. From what i am told the longer the wait the more likely the outcome is bad. As stated above "favorable" decisions take priority plus denials are harder to write so they get put on back burner. I think its absolutely repulsive to do this to someone that is denied the decisions should be written in order recieved... I mean think about it the ones approved their fight is over. Those denied have to decide their next step... Appeals Council, new application, find a job that IF (big IF) hired they most likely won't be able to keep, or end their suffering as they (may feel) are just a burden to others around them and then at least their children could collect survivors benefits... FYI i am NOT suicidal i just listed it as an option that someone may choose when put in this horrible situtation. I can't say it hasn't crossed my mind but i wouldn't do that to my children it is the "selfish" way out. So since i am right at 120 days i am 95% sure i have bad news coming... I can only pray that I am wrong and it will at least be a partially favorable decision and that's why its taking so long. I put it in God's hands and pray every day... I pray for my judge and the other judges as i do feel terrible for these judges it can't be easy to hold another's fate in your hands. May God be with them and help them in making the right decisions.

Anonymous said...

I'm way past that. My hearing was 12/17/2018. It took six months to go into decision writing (5/1/2018) and, two months later, I'm still waiting :(