Johnson, Larson Lead Bipartisan Letter to SSA Calling for Halt to Changes to Disability Appeals Process

July 26, 2018 — Press Releases   

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Subcommittee Ranking Member John Larson (D-CT) led every Member of their Subcommittee in a letter to Social Security Administration (SSA) Acting Commissioner Nancy Berryhill stating SSA should not proceed with plans to reinstate the reconsideration level of appeal in ten states, until a Senate-confirmed Commissioner is sworn in.

The lawmakers wrote:

“Reinstating reconsideration nationwide is a big decision and should only be made by a Senate-confirmed Commissioner.”

“While we agree that Social Security needs a consistent, nationwide appeals process, there is little evidence to show that reconsideration is a meaningful step in the disability appeals process.  There is no sense in seeking a nationally-uniform process if the process itself is flawed.  Additionally, while reinstating reconsideration will allow some people to be awarded benefits sooner, the vast majority of people ultimately approved for benefits will just have longer wait times.”

This letter follows a hearing held by the Social Security Subcommittee this week that reviewed SSA’s changes to the disability appeals process, particularly the decision to reinstate reconsideration. The decision to reinstate reconsideration could lead to millions of beneficiaries not being able to receive their benefits or delays in their hearing with an administrative law judge.

Joining Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Larson on the letter include: Reps. Mike Bishop (R-MI), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Tom Rice (R-SC), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), and Linda Sánchez (D-CA).

CLICK HERE or read below to see the letter.

Dear Acting Commissioner Berryhill:  

We are writing to follow up on yesterday’s Social Security Subcommittee hearing to make clear that the Social Security Administration should not proceed with any plans to reinstate reconsideration until a Senate-confirmed Commissioner is in place.  Reinstating reconsideration nationwide is a big decision and should only be made by a Senate-confirmed Commissioner.

At the hearing, Members on a bipartisan basis raised serious questions about the decision to reinstate reconsideration at this time.  While we agree that Social Security needs a consistent, nationwide appeals process, there is little evidence to show that reconsideration is a meaningful step in the disability appeals process.  There is no sense in seeking a nationally-uniform process if the process itself is flawed.  Additionally, while reinstating reconsideration will allow some people to be awarded benefits sooner, the vast majority of people ultimately approved for benefits will just have longer wait times.  The average wait for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge is already nearly 600 days. Adding another 100 days by reinstating reconsideration in its current form is simply wrong.  

Instead of reinstating reconsideration, the SSA should dedicate its efforts to identifying effective, evidence-based changes that would improve the timeliness and accuracy of disability determinations.  We also expect that any significant changes to the adjudication process be made on the basis of solid data and evidence, presented to Congress, which demonstrates that the changes would result in the correct decision – an award of benefits if the individual meets the statutory eligibility criteria – being made earlier in the adjudication process.

We look forward to receiving your response no later than August 3, 2018.