Applicants for Social Security disability benefits in Florida who are rejected when the initial steps of determining disability are made by the Social Security Administration need to be aware of the appeals process. The SSA has certain procedures that it follows with the decisions it makes. However, the current backlog of claims that have yet to be decided upon is sparking a change in the way the SSA handles these cases.
Some have waited more than a year-and-a-half for their cases to be decided. There are approximately more than 1.1 million people awaiting resolution. Since the SSA is apt to deny claims in their initial stages, many claimants will appeal the decision and be successful in garnering benefits through the appeals process. An appeal is ordinarily sent to an administrative law judge who will be accorded a certain amount of leeway from how the SSA makes its decisions. If the ALJ denies the claim, the applicant can move forward to the appeals council and then federal court.
Considering the current backlog and lack of staffing to deal with these claims, the SSA is taking claims that would ordinarily have been remanded to the appeals council or ALJ to be reconsidered and sending them to administrative appeals judges. The administrative appeals judges are not allowed the same freedoms that the ALJs. ALJs are not subject to being reviewed for performance and when seeking bonuses. Since the administrative appeals judges are not ALJs, they will therefore be subjected to greater restraint when deciding on cases. While the goal to reduce the wait time for those appealing claims is understandable, the ALJs are opposed to this new tactic and the government is looking into its legality.
Although there are steps being taken to protect claimants who are being negatively affected by this new method of the evaluation process and the current discussion surrounding it is meant to help claimants, those who are facing this issue need to have assistance from an advocate looking out for their best interests as an individual. Speaking to an attorney who is fully aware of SSA news and changes to the disability benefits process is an important step to receiving that protection.
Source: Huffington Post, “Social Security Administration Seeks Shortcut Through Massive Disability Backlog,” Arthur Delaney, May 6, 2016