Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue recently attacked a report from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) which is a data research organization sponsored by the university with a mission to provide government oversight. TRAC caused a stir this summer when it issued an analysis on the huge number of pending SSDI claims and the agency’s efforts to reduce the backlog of Social Security disability hearings. We have also written about the Social Security disability backlog in previous posts, including the impact of the backlog on the nation’s budget problem.
In a scathing statement, commissioner Astrue said that the TRAC report was “sloppy and irresponsible.” The commissioner said that TRAC focused on the wrong measures in analyzing the agency’s backlog reduction measures and that the report ignored the “tremendous progress” the agency has made in addressing the hearing backlog. News reports this summer have been filled with horror stories regarding claims that have lingered for years because of the backlog. There were also reports which indicated the agency did not have enough administrative law judges to timely decide claims.
“What matters most to someone waiting for a decision is how quickly we decide their case, not how many other people are waiting for a hearing,” the commissioner said. “We have made significant progress in reducing that time. In August 2008, the average wait time for a decision peaked at 532 days. In May 2011, the average processing time for a hearing decision was less than a year at 354 days — the lowest monthly figure since October 2003.”
An almost year long wait is little comfort to the many disability applicants who struggle to pay bills because of their inability to work. An experienced disability attorney can help those individuals prepare the strongest application possible and may request an exception to speed up the decision process.
Source: Social Security Online, “Statement of Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, on Flawed Syracuse University Report,” June 20, 2011