Wednesday, November 26, 2008
SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue spoke at the recent NOSSCR conference. The Commissioner spoke of the decreased waiting times at the hearing offices as well as some new planned initiatives for the Social Security Administration. The Commissioner plans include opening up new hearing offices. He also hopes to be able to hire more administrative law judges and increase the usage of video hearings. Part of this initiative is also to allow lawyers and representatives the ability to conduct hearings from their office by video conference as well. The hope is that these initiatives will help deal with the increased caseload while decreasing wait times at the hearing level. There is also plans to develop new software to help with the decisions at the application level. In addition there are plans to develop a new system to deal with the occupation aspect of Social Security claims. The Dictionary of Occupational Titles also called the DOT has been the SSA's primary source for dealing with occupational issues. The Commissioner noted that the DOT is outdated. The commission also plans to update the listing of impairments on a more regular basis. The Commissioner also has a new initiative to allow "compassionate allowances". This would allow quicker decisions for claimants whose medical condition would clearly meet Social Security's definition of disabled. The above information is from my attendance at the NOSSCR conference and the Social Security Forum released by NOSSCR in the October 2008 edition. Commissioner Astrue should be commended for the decrease in wait times at the hearing level and for his active pursuit of new initiatives to make the Social Security Disability process better. The biggest question I have is whether SSI will have the funds in this new economic environment to be able to carry through on all these initiatives.