October 23, 2015

SSA Turns Attention To Hearing Backlog

The Social Security Administration is focusing on the worsening hearing-level backlog according to details released in a report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The SSA OIG outlines factors in the worsening productivity by the agency—but it also reports preliminary plans by Social Security to reinvigorate backlog reduction efforts.

Reducing pending hearings also is an objective for the current fiscal year, as shared in its “eight-point tactical plan outlining SSA’s priorities through the end of FY 2016,” the OIG reported.

Some of the SSA’s plans and activities include:

  • Hiring administrative law judges (ALJs) to reach 1,800-1,900 ALJs by FY 2018. As of Apr. 1, 2015, the Agency employed 1,451 ALJs.
  • Achieving a 270-day average processing time (APT) by FY 2020, as the definition for eliminating the backlog. They ended FY 2015 with a 480-day APT.
  • Initiating pre-hearing conferences by senior attorney adjudicators with claimants who have no representation.
  • Enhance electronic access to claimant files for medical and vocational experts.
  • Continuing case transfers and office realignment efforts.
  • Managing ALJs’ caseloads. Judges’ workloads were limited to 1,200 new case assignments in FY 2012, 960 cases in FY 2013, 840 cases in FY 2014, and 720 cases in FY 2015.
  • Increasing the use of video hearings and alternatives, such as claimant-only video sites located within field offices. There are 182 such sites, with 96 offices to be added.

The SSA ended FY 2015 on Sept. 30 with 1,060,907 people awaiting an SSDI hearing. This is an increase of 8.5 percent from 977,736 people with pending hearings at the end of FY 2014, and a more than 50 percent increase from FY 2010 when there were 705,367 pending hearings.



Steve Perrigo
Written by

Steve Perrigo

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