New Report Sheds Light on Factors That Contribute to Delayed Hearings
Recently, the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report called “Workload Review of the Office of Hearings Operations’ Atlanta and New York Regions” exploring some of the reasons for the high processing times of hearing offices in said regions.
According to the report, the most common reasons for delays were: insufficient staffing, poorly performing support staff and Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), low employee morale, supplemental hearings and postponements, and difficulty scheduling expert witness testimony.
The New York region faced additional challenges in the form of office management issues and state laws requiring select welfare recipients to apply for disability benefits. The Atlanta region faced a different set of challenges, including IT difficulties, and a lack of decision writers.
The report also listed some of the perceived problems with claimant representatives as reported by hearing office staff. These include: representatives showing up to hearings unprepared, thus the need for supplemental hearings, insufficient availability to schedule hearings, poor communication with claimants, and either a failure to collect evidence or submitting evidence immediately prior to the hearing. The report simply listed alleged issues, but did not verify or quantify them.
Stats Show a Decrease in ALJ Award Rates
So far, in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, there have been 423,224 dispositions of requests for Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearings. Of those, 43% were allowances, 36% were denials, and 21% were dismissals. The 21% dismissal rate is on par with that of FY 2017, but the award rate is four percentage points lower than it was in the prior fiscal year, while the denial rate is four percentage points higher.
To put these numbers in context, consider the following: in FY 2013, the ALJ level award rate was 48% and the dismissal rate was 17%. In FY 2008, the award rate was 63%, while the dismissal rate was only 16%. You can learn more here: https://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/03_ALJ_Disposition_Data.html.
SSA’s Office of the Chief Actuary Releases Top Baby Names of 2017
The SSA gathers data about baby names when it issues Social Security Numbers to new babies. It tracks both the most popular baby names, as well as which names increase and decrease in popularity.
Here’s the lowdown on baby names in 2017:
The top five girls’ names were: Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, and Sophia. The top five boys’ names were: Liam, Noah, William, James, and Logan. A whopping 4% of babies born in 2017 received one of those names.
In terms of increases in popularity, Wells, Cairo, and Kairo were the boys’ names that showed the greatest increases. The girl name that rose most in popularity was Ensley. Melania, Oaklynn, and Oaklyn were among the top five girls’ names that rose the most in popularity last year. The popularity of the names Oaklee and Oakley also increased significantly.
You can find out more about the popularity of names dating back to 1900, view baby names by state, and learn more about all things baby name here: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/.
Musculoskeletal Listings Up for Revision
In early May, the SSA announced it was planning to revise the evaluation criteria in the Listing of Impairments for musculoskeletal disorders in both children and adults. The future changes will apply to disability claims under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.
The musculoskeletal listings have remained unchanged since November of 2001, and the SSA believes it is time to update the listings to reflect advances in the medical understanding and treatment of such conditions.
The SSA is proposing to change both the content and structure of the musculoskeletal listings and introductory texts. Some of the proposed revisions include: changing nomenclature, reformatting the adult and childhood listings, removing and renumbering all listings, replacing ambiguous language with clearer descriptions, adding clarifying definitions, and adding listings, among other changes.
Comments on the proposed revisions are due July 6, 2018. More information on the proposed revisions, as well as how to submit feedback, is available here: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/pagedetails.action?granuleId=2018-08889&packageId=FR-2018-05-07&acCode=FR&collectionCode=FR.