The House Weighs In On Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Reform
On June 27th, 2013, the House Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Healthcare, and Entitlements held a hearing to explore the reasons behind rising Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims and how Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) figure into that increase. The House hearing came nearly a year after a similarly-focused 2012 hearing in the Senate, and demonstrates considerably expanded Congressional interest in the future of the SSDI program.
Among those who testified at the House’s June 27th hearing were four ALJs, a representative from the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), and a representative from the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR).
While the ODAR representative focused primarily on positive changes made to ODAR over the past several years, such as faster processing times and the addition of over 800 ALJs, the ALJs were less optimistic and voiced four recurring concerns: (1) that the quality of disability decisions has been adversely affected by what ALJs identify as a de facto “quota” dictating the number of disability decisions an ALJ makes (2) that this “quota” has forced many ALJs to allow more claims in an effort to reduce the backlog of claims awaiting a hearing (3) that the quality of disability decisions sometimes suffers because claimant representatives are allowed to withhold certain types of evidence, and (4) that the hearing process requires a number of procedural changes.
Finally, the NOSSCR representative present addressed many of the ALJs’ concerns, and Subcommittee members discussed the possibility of reallocation to correct for the projected Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund shortage.