Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hiring Freeze Impacts Disabled Americans

A couple months ago we wrote about the long waits that Americans are subjected to when applying for Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits. In San Diego, California, alone, people applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits have to wait 18 months on average to have their case heard by an administrative law judge. This is a process that could be drastically shortened by having more judges hearing such cases. San Diego only has 11 judges currently hearing cases.

As time passes, people's physical and financial conditions worsen to untenable points. The SSA’s mission is to help keep people who are unable to work, above water. A mission that is hindered by a serious lack of funding in recent years.

As we pointed out in December, there are roughly 1,500 judges nationwide hearing SSA cases, and 1.1 million Americans awaiting disability hearings according to SSA data. You might think that the aforementioned data would lead lawmakers to take action to increase funding for the agency, in turn leading to the hiring of more judges. Yet, since the data was released the opposite has occurred.

One of President Trump's first executive actions imposed a federal civilian employee hiring freeze, Bloomberg reports. It was an action that could actually result in disabled people having to wait longer to have their cases heard.

“These are people who are desperate,” Judge Marilyn Zahm, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges union, said. “There may be a hiring freeze on federal employment, but there’s no freeze on people getting older, people getting sicker, people having injuries and accidents, and people needing disability insurance.” 

Several judges have been working overtime every day without compensation in an attempt to close-in on the backlog, Zahm points out. She says that some cases require judges to look over 1,000 pages of medical records and experts’ assessments.

 “This is not a job where you should be doing slapdash work,” said Zahm. “People’s lives, livelihoods, are at stake.”

If you live in Southern California and are experiencing problems with an SSDI or SSI application, please contact Driscoll Law Corporation for a free consultation. 

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