According to the Inspector General…
Here’s a brief rundown of two recent reports from the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG): one about the Appeals Council (AC) and one about claimant representatives at the state level.
The AC Report:
The report addressed the AC’s efforts to streamline and expedite how it processes requests for review (R/R) and general processing times. The report found that, while Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) dispositions have increased over the last 7 years (a positive step towards expediting the processing times and reducing the pending R/R backlog) so have the overall number of cases and length of processing times.
Additionally, the report found that the SSA’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2013-16 fails to outline any workload goals for the AC, but does outline specific goals for other disability workloads. Moreover, the strategic plan also lacks productivity goals for AC adjudicators. According to the report, these omissions are missed opportunities for improvement.
This report analyzed 275 disability cases (randomly selected) decided in 2010, as well as commentary from external parties such as representatives from the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR).
The report found that cases in which a claimant representative assisted the claimant were only slightly more likely to result in an allowance. The likelihood of allowance based on the presence or absence of a claimant representative remained the same at the reconsideration level.
The report looked at a number of representative vs. without representative scenarios, and did find some differences between claims that had a representative assisting and those that did not. However, overall, the report found that the amount of help a representative can provide varies greatly and depends upon the combination of the representative, the case, and the circumstances.