Dec 28, 2018

The Hearing Backlog Remains Huge

     From USA Today:
It isn’t easy to be patient when you can’t work and you’re in pain, as Christine Morgan knows all too well.
Her chronic pain comes from fibromyalgia. Morgan, 60, also has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that pinches the nerves, most often in the lower back and neck. To top it off, she is diabetic, has kidney disease, high blood pressure and depression.
Yet Morgan has been turned down for Social Security Disability Insurance –  twice. “They sent me a letter that said I wasn’t disabled,” she said.
Morgan appealed her most recent denial in August 2017. Her appeal wasn’t heard until more than a year later, on Nov. 7, and she still hasn’t received a ruling. She is among more than 800,000 Americans waiting for their appeals to be decided. Each year thousands die waiting for an answer.
In fiscal year 2016, 8,699 Americans died on the disability insurance waiting list. That number rose to 10,002 in 2017. ...


Anonymous said...

in a perfect world, how long should it be from Recon to the Hearing after a denial? 3 months? 6 Months? 6 Weeks?

Anonymous said...

6 months. Back in the days it only took 3 months, claims were often denied at hearing because they had not been out a year and the impairment would not last a year.

Anonymous said...

I love how this article is written: "It isn't easy to be patient when you can't work and are in pain." Hey USA Today, not everyone who applies for disability, appeals an unfavorable decision to a hearing, or otherwise thinks he or she is disabled, is actually disabled according to the law SSA is bound by.

Yes, there are problems with the system, but this makes it seem like SSA just denies obviously disabled people for fun.

Anonymous said...

I work as a decision writing attorney "advisor" for SSA OHO. From my perspective, the problem is two-fold: 1) an increase in applications, without corresponding increase in ALJs, attorneys and support staff (duh); and 2) a lousy business process.

Re: #2 -- no attorney or ALJ at OHO reviews most cases until a few weeks before the hearing. So they often have missing evidence, duplicate records and lots of unanswered questions. An OHO intake review (by a person with a J.D.) could screen out favorable cases, but senior attorney adjudications were cut drastically by SSA at the same time intakes skyrocketed. I, as attorney "advisor," don't see the file until it is time to write the decision (after it sits in backlog post-hearing) and the only "advice" I could give would be that workup was faulty, evidence is missing, or the ALJ missed important evidence in his or her hasty review. No one wants to hear it, so I am a fiction writer much of the time, stuck with the crappy business process. Reps, I hope you raise this inefficient process in your lobbying efforts.

Anonymous said...

The backlog has plummeted from a million to 600,000. Reps. could help a little by not submitting duplicates, getting in evidence timely [submitting nothing for 2 years, then hundreds of pages just before hearing is not good. And amending the onset date just before hearing only shows that the rep. has not seriously looked at the file before.

Tim said...

I guess you could say I have been denied 7 times. Four by DDS and once each by ALJ, AC, and Federal Court. Instead of Fibromyalgia, the ALJ used a diagnosis of Myofascal pain syndrome to say my pain didn't fir the diagnosis. He totally ignored the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. The Federal judge said this was okay, because he did evaluate my symptoms. The ALJ did the same thing with iritis instead of dry eye syndrome. Does the phrase apples and oranges mean anything to these people? Or, are they just interested in screwing people? I also have Ankylosing Spondylitis, degenerative disc disease, etc. If they deny me 7 x 7 times, that still won't mean I can do the 3 jobs the VE claims I can do!

Anonymous said...

The backlog is still a problem but there have been huge strides made in the last couple years (almost solely attributable to far fewer applications being filed but we will take our strides where we can find them). By the end of this fiscal year pending is projected to be about 650,000 meaning pending will have dropped approximately 40% in 2 years. About 15% of OHO's hearing offices dispose of at least twice as many cases per month as they receive. We are literally down to only about 10 offices (out of 165 or so) that are not disposing of more cases than they are receiving per month. If we do hit the target of only 650,000 pending, that will be fewer cases than OHO typically disposes of in a year meaning processing time will take another significant drop (and there wont be enough cases for the number of ALJ's we have to issue 500 dispositions per year). OHO's goal has always been a processing time of 270 days though that was before the change to a 75 scheduling window.

Anonymous said...

The Jackson, MS OHO has made tremendous progress to reduce the wait time; this rep can't complain.
The 60 year old person in the article should have been approved on the face of it, but we don't know what the medical records say. If her doctors are backing her up, she will be approved. Too often, cases that seem really good at first glance lack the medical evidence to back the claim. I have seen too many cases where the doctor will tell the claimant one thing but put another thing or nothing in the record. Also, "well I can't afford a doctor" doesn't help anything either. Having conditions that aren't being treated by a doctor doesn't help anything either.

Anonymous said...

Her chronic pain comes from fibromyalgia. Morgan, 60, also has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that pinches the nerves, most often in the lower back and neck. To top it off, she is diabetic, has kidney disease, high blood pressure and depression.

fibro, with only pressure point testing, nothing definite testing there, so pressure point tests is about it

Spinal stenosis, about 10 to 15% of the population her age has that, without imaging showing nerve root impingement, thats tough.

Diabetic, chronic condition not disabling, kidney disease has not risen to the level of ESRD not disabling, HBP, controlled with medication most likely and depression, wonder if she is seeing a treating psych or just getting Paxil from the GP.

Not much to approve on here, rep takes it hoping for enough to GRID on age.

P.S. not a agency worker, just a social service provider, this is every person I see every single day, not on the phone, face to face, every day.

Anonymous said...

If there is evidence of the pinched nerve, she will be approved.