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NOSSCR Calls for Improvements to Social Security Adjudication Process

Legal Organization Serving Social Security Disability Applicants Calls for No-Cost Upgrades to Improve Application and Appeals Process for the Most Vulnerable, Testifying Before the House Ways and Means Committee

Media contact: Mark Firmani, mark@firmani.com

October 26, 2023, Washington, D.C. – NOSS The organization speaks for thousands of professionals who represent Social Security disability applicants.

In his testimony, interim CEO David Camp emphasized that the wait time for Social Security disability claims has nearly doubled since 2018, despite a significant decrease in the volume of applications. Today, numerous procedural roadblocks prevent those representing applicants from helping them secure often lifesaving benefits.

According to Camp, these delays harm the most vulnerable, including disabled, homeless, and terminally ill applicants. “What’s more, most of these delays are unnecessary — a byproduct of inefficient processes and outdated requirements,” he said. “Most could be remedied with simple, cost-neutral administrative changes.”

The testimony, scheduled for October 26 at 9 a.m., will be broadcast on https://waysandmeans.house.gov.

In his prepared remarks submitted to the committee, Camp outlines several specific, commonsense improvements that would significantly shorten the wait that applicants are forced to endure. These administrative changes include:

  • Relying on treating physicians. SSA routinely uses third-party paid examiners to evaluate applicants’ medical conditions instead of relying on the applicants’ treating doctors. These third-party examiners make determinations without familiarity with claimants’ medical histories, often generating flawed reports, causing further delays and wasting additional resources.
  • Eliminating reconsideration. SSA evaluates claims at an initial stage but then duplicates the evaluation in a second “reconsideration” before allowing review by a judge. That second step adds an average of 210 days to the process while correcting very few decisions. In two states—Florida and South Carolina—reconsideration adds more than 300 days. The process produces duplicated findings, adds very little new or reliable information to the cases, and it should be pared back to both reduce costs and speed up the process. NOSSCR advocates for eliminating reconsideration in the slowest states, if not all.
  • Eliminating requirements for a permanent physical address.SSA provides meaningful data and application access on personal online accounts; however, creating an online account requires a physical address. Many homeless and transient applicants are unable to meet this requirement and are therefore denied access.
  • Eliminating e-signature verification. SSA allows for electronic signatures on many forms — but still requires verification of those signatures over the phone, which is unnecessary and time-consuming. What’s more, some staff incorrectly reject electronic signatures based on outdated guidelines. Removing the phone verification step entirely would streamline the process, saving valuable time and resources.

Camp noted that one particularly glaring issue is SSA’s inability to expedite applications for people with compassionate allowance, which is intended to give grievously ill — often terminally ill — applicants immediate assistance. The program is intended to grant benefits quickly, but routinely falls short of that goal.

“When a person qualifies for a compassionate allowance, it means they are severely disabled and potentially terminally ill, and time is a major factor,” said Camp. “But our members’ clients are waiting several months — sometimes over a year — for benefits, even with the most unambiguous diagnoses of major disabling conditions.”

Camp cited one instance of a woman suffering from a life-threatening condition — Stiff Person Syndrome — whose claim took 15 months to process, despite the unanimous consent of her doctors that her condition is severe and will grow more disabling over time.

“We hear accounts like this from our NOSSCR members every day,” Camp said. “What’s most vexing is that we believe there are simple, easily implemented solutions for the vast majority of these issues, and we hope our testimony will help the administration come to that conclusion as well.”

Read the complete set of NOSSCR’s recommendations here.

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 ABOUT NOSSCR

The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR) is the largest community of advocates for Social Security claimants in the nation. NOSSCR and its members advocate for improvements in Social Security disability programs and work to ensure fair representation for all claimants. To learn more, visit https://nosscr.org.

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