President Trump’s federal hiring freeze may lengthen the social security disability appeals backlog, which is already overloaded. Currently, the caseloads have grown so large that many cases do not get to their hearings for more than a year. The average wait time is currently 526 days, leaving applicants who are desperate waiting for lengthy periods of time to receive determinations about their benefits eligibility. The problem is expected to worsen with the hiring freeze that Trump put into place through an executive order for federal civilian employees. A social security disability attorney believes that the Office of Government Management should grant an exception to administrative law judge hiring so that the backlog of appeals can be taken care of and to prevent it from growing even larger.
Currently, there are`1.650 administrative law judges who hear social security disability appeals across the country. According to the Social Security Administration, 1.1 million Americans were waiting for decisions in May 2016. The agency announced last year that it intended to add additional administrative law judges to have 1,900 available to hear cases so that it could cut down the backlog of cases. It is unclear whether or not the Social Security Administration will seek an exception from the hiring freeze for its administrative law judges and their clerks. Former commissioners from both parties agree that the problem will get much worse if nothing is done and if the freeze is applied to the Social Security Administration.
Administrative Law Judge Union’s Position
According to the Administrative Law Judge Union, some judges have been working additional hours for no pay to try to get through the case backlog. Many disability cases require reviews of thousands of pages of medical documents. A union spokesperson stated that many of the applicants’ lives are at stake, and the reviews of the records have to be thorough and not rushed. Mick Mulvaney, who is Trump’s pick to lead the budget office, acknowledged during his confirmation hearing that the case backlog was a problem and that it needed to be dealt with. When he was asked, he said he did not believe that hiring more administrative law judges was necessarily the answer to improve efficiency.
A social security disability attorney commonly advises his or her clients that the appeals process may be lengthy, taking many months. Trump’s hiring freeze may lengthen the process even more, making it necessary for people to be prepared.