Representatives of the Social Security Administration recently discussed at the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives Conference new ways the agency plans on speeding up Disability cases in an attempt to chip away at the massive backlog currently faced. These plans include things like issuing more decisions, hiring additional personnel, and increasing overall workflow efficiency.
In terms of issuing more decisions, SSA is now training more employees than ever to help issue decisions. At the Office of Hearing Operations (previously called the Office of Disability Adjudication & Review), Administrative Law Judges and Attorney Advisors wrote decisions, but it appears this will duty will now be extended to other employees specifically designated to write decisions.
The Trump Administration enacted a hiring freeze for SSA which lifted for the agency in September 2017 and top officials state this has been their largest challenge. SSA recently resumed hiring and is even in the process of training 100 new Administrative Law Judges. Reports indicate they are also in the process of hiring thousands of more employees to staff Field, Disability, and Hearing offices.
Lastly, SSA is implementing new policies which aim at increasing overall efficiency. The most notable has to do with changes at the Appeals Council, which historically reviewed decisions made by the lower appellate level Administrative Law Judge and would then remand the case back to that same Judge if an error of law was to be addressed. Now, those issues will apparently be dealt with directly by the Appeals Council. Other efforts include using word recognition technology to find strong cases in their database. We are hopeful these new changes will help our clients receive decision more quickly!