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New GAO Study Sheds Light on Reasons For Delays in Some Disability Cases

  July 20, 2022

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this week related to what they called “unnecessary processing delays” for some claimants’ Social Security disability cases.

The lack of consistency in expediting cases has been a source of frustration for many NOSSCR members and their clients. This new report sheds light on some of the reasons those delays might be occurring as well as provides recommendations on how Social Security hearing offices should proceed in the future.

Numerous instances of these problems were brought to light in the report.

  • “Cases can be flagged as critical before reaching a hearing office or during nearly any stage of the hearing process. SSA policy directs staff to expedite the case once it is flagged as critical. However, staff GAO interviewed from three of the five selected offices said that claimants must provide documentation of their dire financial need, even though SSA policy does not require it.”
  • “GAO found that only 28.5 percent of cases that had a homeless designation also had a critical case flag, and thus were selected for expedited processing, despite SSA officials saying that most of these cases should qualify as dire need.”

Median wait times for hearings were also noted in the report. From fiscal years 2010 to 2020, the wait times for “SSA critical cases when the flag was added” were:

  • 201 days Cases flagged prior to reaching the hearing office
  • 351 days Cases flagged while at the hearing office
  • 469 days Non-critical cases

NOSSCR will continue to advocate for the Social Security Administration to ensure that all of its computer systems talk to and understand one another so that all critical case flags receive expedited processing at the hearing level.

The report has already gained the attention of several members of Congress. Following the publication of the report, Representative John Larson (CT) and Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), who both commissioned the report, have called for measures to strengthen the Social Security program.

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