The Current Climate
The recession. The economic crisis. The greatest economic slump since the Depression. No matter what you call it, there’s no denying that times are tough for many Americans. With the country’s unemployment rate hovering around 9.1%, more Social Security Disability claims are being filed than ever before. In fact, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the number of disability applications has reached more than 750,000 a quarter – an increase of more than 50% from 2006.
The increasing number of applications and hearing requests means that the SSA’s backlog is getting worse, not better. During the last seven years, processing times for disability hearings increased by 200 days, forcing the ill and the vulnerable to wait even longer for the social security disability benefits they desperately need. As of January 2011, over 2 million Americans are waiting on standby for their disability hearings to be scheduled.
Complaints directed at the SSA have not fallen upon deaf ears, however. In an attempt to address the concerns of the growing number of frustrated Americans, the SSA is trying a few new methods designed to speed up the application and claims process.
Effective as of November 2010, the new rules published by the SSA will help fast-track the disability eligibility determinations from the most severely disabled applicants. Using the Quick Disability Determination (QDD) and Compassionate Allowance (CAL) processes, disability examiners are now able to determine eligibility for 88 specific diseases and conditions that are obviously qualified for benefits, without medical or psychological consultant approval. This saves time all around – examiners take less time to determine eligibility for those 88 conditions, and medical and psychological consultants are able to work on the cases that need their expertise the most.
Another innovative way that the SSA is trying to help reduce the case backlog is by introducing video hearings. This technology allows Administrative Law Judges to preside over hearings remotely, sometimes from distances of many miles. Applicants who are severely disabled and who cannot travel easily will find this new process infinitely more helpful than the previous alternative. Since video-hearing dates also tend to happen sooner than in-person hearings, the dire need applicant also benefits.
Video hearings are similar in many ways to in-person hearings. The applicant should still dress and speak appropriately. The Administrative Law Judge will be able to zoom in and out, and to observe the applicant from different angles. It is recommended that applicants retain the services of a social security disability attorney, who will continue to help the applicant navigate the course of the video-hearing.
Michael Astrue, the Social Security Commissioner, has estimated that with video-hearing technology, the wait times for hearings may drop to nine months as early as 2013. If this trend continues, it can only mean good news for the millions of disabled Americans ready to receive the benefits they deserve.
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Disability Group Inc was founded on the principles of dignity and respect. We are a national law firm focused exclusively on helping people receive the Social Security Disability benefits they deserve. Visit us at http://www.socialsecuritylaw.com