Having just returned from the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) conference in Washington D.C. last week, I have some good news and some bad news to share.
The good news is that the Social Security Administration is aggressively working on making my work representing disabled claimants in their Social Security Disability claims a little more productive, and thus potentially allowing me to help my clients get their Disability benefits faster. The Federal Government is working hard to reduce delays and backlogs in the processing of Social Security Disability claims by improving technology and by executing plans to hire hundreds of Administrative Law Judges and thousands of employees to work in the Social Security Administration’s District Offices and at State Offices of Disability Determination (the State Agencies).
The bad news is that even as the Federal Government is making progress in reducing delays and backlogs, state governors continue to proceed with their plans to furlough State Agency employees, despite the fact that Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue has repeatedly made it clear that rather than fire or furlough State Agency employees, he wants to hire more.
At the Conference, Commissioner Astrue specifically identified New York State, reporting a planned 8% cut in the staff of the New York State Department of Disability Determinations even as Social Security is prepared to increase that staff by 15%! As I’ve noted in prior posts, furloughing those workers at the Department of Disability Determination has no positive impact on the New York State budget and, instead, only causes lengthier delays in processing the claims of our most vulnerable disabled citizens.
Returning to the good news: thanks to the efforts of the Social Security Administration on a federal level, the improvements in technology should have an obvious positive outcome. It is expected that by the end of 2009, both attorneys and claimants’ representatives will be able to access our clients’ Disability files directly online without waiting for Social Security employees to create a CD of the contents of the Administrative file. This will enable representatives like me to provide more medical records to the fact finders sooner than otherwise, because I’ll have the opportunity to review the claims file and avoid providing duplicate evidence. Also, the sooner I have the opportunity to review the Disability claims file, the more likely I am to be able to flag it for specialized review.
If only the State Governors would stop furloughing State Agency employees, I believe we would see a real difference in how much more quickly Social Security Disability claims could be processed.