What is the Social Security Administration (SSA) Doing to Reduce the Hearings Backlog?
At a recent conference for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR), the SSA’s new Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), Theresa Gruber, spoke a little about the actions the SSA is taking to reduce its hearings backlog.
The hiring component is one arm of the SSA’s strategy. Although Gruber said the SSA “can’t hire their way out” of the problem, having more adjudicators will ultimately help reduce the backlog. The SSA hopes to have around 1800 Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) working on its behalf, meaning that it will still need to hire several hundred more to meet that goal.
The National Adjudication Team (NAT) is another arm of the SSA’s backlog reduction strategy. The NAT is a group of full-time senior attorneys who have the authority to issue fully favorable decisions in cases that are already likely to receive a fully favorable ruling. The cases are selected and assigned by the national ODAR office.
Several other backlog reduction strategies include using video hearings more frequently (in 2015, only about 28% of hearings were video hearings), and finding more efficient ways to prepare cases with extensive medical records. In the near future, medical and vocational experts will get access to electronic case files, which will let them review more evidence faster.
With any luck, some, if not all of these strategies will work in concert to resolve the hearings backlog by 2020.