I attended and was privileged to speak before the November 2011 NOSSCR conference in San Antonio. NOSSCR (National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives) is the premier organization for Social Security attorneys and it is my feeling that anyone proceeding on a disability claim be represented by an attorney who both is member of NOSSCR and participates in these conferences on a routine basis.
The Social Security Administration always participates in these conferences, providing a sort of status report on how they think they are doing. This conference was a little different. Glenn Sklar, Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) appeared by video instead of in person, announcing that he had been grounded due to budget. Much of the presentation dealt with "progress" of the agency in decreasing the backlog of cases waiting for hearing, by increasing judge productivity, adding staff, technology with the strong theme that they believed they were doing just great!! He addressed the growing use of video hearings to address backlog, which are controversial the NOSSCR membership. The word expressed over and over was "quality." Sklar announced a goal of 270 days processing time for hearings, however neglected to indicate whether the often lengthy wait for a decision after hearing was included in that number. However, it is clear that the waiting time has been somewhat reduced. What I question is the "quality" of the decision making.
The information presented next by Patricia Jonas, Executive Director of the Office of Appellate Operations illustrates my point. She is responsible for caseload after a case had been heard by an Administrative Law Judge. If a claimant is still unhappy, they can appeal to the Appeals Council and beyond that to the federal courts. Just in the 2011 fiscal year, Appeals Council filings increased by 34.7%. Really? This is a huge increase and does not support progress and "quality."