Saturday, March 29, 2008

OIG Looks at ALJ Productivity

There is much talk about the cause of the backlog of Social Security Disability and SSI cases. To see how long it takes at the hearing stage in your area click on this link. The Office of Inspector General recently released an audit report of the productivity of Administrative Law Judges to see if it played a factor in the backlog of cases. The Commissioner of SSA also has expressed the possibility that increasing the productivity of ALJs could decrease the backlog. SSA appears to be looking at setting some sort of minimal standard in terms of number of cases an ALJ should perform in a given year. There are several problems with SSA's ability to put a minimal standard of production on ALJs. First, Administrative Law Judges are supposed to be independent of SSA in their decision making. Therefore, SSA must be careful not to interfere with the ALJ decision making process. Second, the ALJs have a union that will probably appose any tough standard requirements for ALJs. Lastly, SSA will have to figure out what is an acceptable level of hearings per year for an ALJ. I remember the speech the Commissioner gave at the last NOSSCR conference and it was clear he was not happy about the production of some ALJs and expressed his frustration on his ability to do something about it, but it was clear he planned on working on the issue. I should note here that it has been my experience that the vast majority of ALJs are very productive, and as they should, balance that with the need for a fair hearing for the claimants. In my opinion, it is only a few ALJs that are not producing at a sufficient rate. However, SSA should have the ability to force those few to be more productive to help decrease the backlog of cases.

Monday, March 24, 2008

SSA Working on Updating Listings

The Social Security Administration has been working to update the medical listing of impairments. I will be very interested at the upcoming NOSSCR conference to see the progress they have made and the impact it will have on Social Security Disability claims. At the last conference SSA spoke about making the medical listings more current and easier to asses if someone meets a listing. There has already been a few changes to the listing. My hope is that the changes will help reduce backlogs by granting benefits to those with obvious disabilities earlier in the process. If they make the listings more understandable and more defined then the employees at SSA may be able to grant benefits earlier instead of "passing it on". I will be updating my page on the medical listing of impairments as they become available and as time permits. I will also report back anything I learn at the upcoming NOSSCR conference pertaining to the medical listings and any other topics I feel would be of interest to you.