01.06.17

Daines Urges Reversal of Misguided Decision to Stop Hearings on Disability Insurance for Montanans

U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senator Steve Daines today urged the U.S. Social Security Administration to continue processing Montanans Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims.

Recently, Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge Nicholas LoBurgio suspended all hearings for SSDI and SSI claims in the state of Montana until at least the summer of 2017 unless there is a dire need. 

In letters to Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin and Judge LoBurgio, Daines implored her to find an alternative solution to reduce the backlog of Region 8 cases while still processing claims for the state of Montana. 

“Montanans deserve a timely hearing and a decision on their SSI and SSDI claims. While reducing backlog is an important goal, sacrificing the access of Montanans to appeals on their claims for this goal is an unacceptable solution,” Daines wrote. “I urge you to find a more effective method for reducing the backlog that also fulfills the Social Security Administration’s obligation to Montanans.”

Daines’ letter is available to download HERE and below.

I write concerning reports that Regional Chief Administrative Law Judge Nicholas LoBurgio has suspended all hearings for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims in the state of Montana until at least the summer of 2017 unless there is a dire need. The apparent reason for this is to reduce a backlog of Region 8 cases from Idaho, Salt Lake City, UT, and Pueblo, CO. 

With 28 years’ experience in business, I understand and applaud the goal of reducing backlog. However, the reduction of backlog for one group should not be entirely borne by another. Montanans are already waiting 14 months on average for a hearing with 4914 cases pending. An abrupt stoppage of hearings for Montana cases would immediately add an additional six months requiring two and one-half years to three years after initial application. This severely impacts the ability of the disabled to get timely answers on whether they are eligible for much-needed income. Not only would this have an immediate impact on the claimants, it would generate an additional backlog of Montana cases for Montana’s Administrative Law Judges, further delaying a hearing. 

Montanans deserve a timely hearing and a decision on their SSI and SSDI claims. While reducing backlog is an important goal, sacrificing the access of Montanans to appeals on their claims for this goal is an unacceptable solution. I urge you to find a more effective method for reducing the backlog that also fulfills the Social Security Administration’s obligation to Montanans.

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