Pennsylvania is a “prototype” state with regard to the process for reviewing Social Security Disability Claims. In 2000, Social Security started a pilot program in 10 states, Pennsylvania included, to test the elimination of the reconsideration step in the procedure for reviewing Social Security Disability Claims.
Under the old non-prototype model, the claim goes to the State Bureau for Disability Determination who then, typically, recommends denial of the claim. Social Security issues a Notice of Disapproved Claim. The Applicant would then be required to file a Request for Reconsideration of the Notice of Disapproved Claim. The Applicant will only be allowed to file a Request for a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge after receiving a denial of the Request for Reconsideration. The prototype states eliminated this extra step in an effort to streamline decisions.
President Obama’s 2011 budget request proposes to reinstate the reconsideration step nationwide beginning with Michigan in 2011. Ostensibly, the hope within the Obama Administration is that this step will help reduce the backlog of cases before the Administrative Law Judges.
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a hearing on this issue recently and NOSSCR (National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives) President, Nancy Shor provided testimony. President Shor’s testimony opposed reinstating the reconsideration step. Her testimony reflected that although a small percentage of cases may benefit from the reconsideration step, the vast majority of cases will simply be required to endure this additional step before going to the hearing stage thus making the waiting period that much longer. In most cases, the waiting period in prototype cases is already over 365 days from the date the Request for a Hearing is filed.
We completely support President Shor’s testimony and conclusions. We believe that the proper method for reducing the backlog of hearing requests is to hire more Attorney Advisors who can render opinions on cases without the need for a hearing. Hopefully, Congress will heed President Shor’s advice and will not reimplement the reconsideration stage here in Pennsylvania.