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Chairman Johnson Opening Statement at Hearing on Examining Changes to Social Security’s Disability Appeals Process

July 25, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on Examining Changes to Social Security’s Disability Appeals Process.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing on examining changes to Social Security’s disability appeals process.   

“You know, today is the 19th hearing I have held on Social Security’s Disability Insurance Program as the Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee.  Over the years we have talked about the challenges facing the disability program and the need to make some real changes to improve how it works for claimants, beneficiaries, and taxpayers.  We’ve spent a lot of time talking about this program because it’s so important. 

“Yet, since 2003, the disability program has been on GAO’s high risk list primarily because it desperately needs to be modernized.  Americans want, need and deserve a disability appeals process that is fair, accurate, and timely.  And the decisions should be the same, no matter whether a claim is filed in Texas, Connecticut, or Michigan.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case today. 

“Recently, Social Security announced its decision to reinstate reconsideration.  For those not familiar, reconsideration is a full second review of a rejected claim by a different examiner. On average, the processing time for this step is about 100 days.

“This move would make sure that the appeals process is the same throughout the country but there are real questions about the value of reinstating reconsideration.  While some people might get a decision sooner under reconsideration, for others this step is effectively a rubber stamp of the initial decision. It simply further delays their hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. 

“Reinstating reconsideration is a big decision to make, especially given that fact Social Security has been without a Commissioner for more than five years. We need to understand why Social Security thinks now is the time to make this decision.

“I am pleased that President Trump has put forward a nominee for Commissioner, however, he hasn’t even had a hearing yet.  I want to take this opportunity to call on my Senate colleagues to act quickly to confirm the next Social Security Commissioner.  Social Security needs leadership and now. 

“We need the leadership of a Commissioner to ensure Social Security has a consistent, nationwide appeals process.  And any changes made need to be backed up by data showing how any changes benefit both the claimant and the taxpayer.  Americans deserve nothing less. 

“I want to thank our witnesses for being here, and I look forward to hearing your testimony.”