Yesterday, ten senators from both parties sent a letter to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Acting Commissioner Nancy Berryhill a expressing opposition to the reintroduction of reconsideration in their states. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) led the effort on the letter and he was joined by nine of his colleagues from the disability “prototype” states. Those states are Alabama, Alaska, California (Los Angeles North and Los Angeles West Branches only), Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania.
NOSSCR is very pleased with this bipartisan letter and the work our staff did with great offices on the hill to get this done. We are also appreciative of all of our members who reached out to encourage their senators to sign on to the letter. SSA has decided to reinstitute the reconsideration stage of the disability appeals process in the ten prototype states listed above, despite the lack of a confirmed commissioner or any data about the efficacy of this decision. This stage was eliminated 20 years ago in these states as part of an experiment in expediting applicant wait times in a system where the average claimant currently waits for about 600 days for a hearing. The elimination of reconsideration succeeded in enabling claimants to reach the hearing stage faster, and its reintroduction would add about 101 days to the wait time to the vast majority of claimants in those 10 states.
NOSSCR thanks these Senators and others who oppose the reintroduction of an additional level of appeal with no plans to improve the adjudication at this or the initial application level. Claimants deserve to have their cases adjudicated based on complete records as quickly as possible and should not be subject to delays with no evidence that this improves the adjudication of Social Security disability claims.
Our Director of Government Affairs Lisa Ekman testified at the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee’s hearing in July regarding reintroducing reconsideration. In her oral statement, she said “Far more people will have to wait longer to receive their benefits than will get them earlier as a result of this proposed change – seven out of eight people are denied during reconsideration. Worse, thousands of claimants will not ever receive the benefits they are eligible for – many who meet the statutory eligibility criteria will abandon their appeals because of this procedural hurdle.”
Congress has now expressed its bipartisan and bicameral opposition to this proposed change to Acting Commissioner Berryhill. Every member of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee sent a similar letter to Commissioner Berryhill the day after the Subcommittee hearing.
NOSSCR fully supports these letters and opposes any change to the disability adjudication process that imposes unnecessary rules and increases delays.