New step in disability benefits process for Pennsylvania residents

Anyone in Pennsylvania who is denied federal disability benefits and wants to appeal will now go through a new step that the Social Security Administration says is meant to reduce a large case backlog.

For the past decade, Pennsylvania had a special exception to the rule that a person denied disability benefits after an initial application had to submit to a second examiner for “reconsideration” before appealing to an administrative law judge. Now, Pennsylvania residents could skip that extra step. However, even with one less step, the average wait time for an appeal hearing averages more than two years. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) advocates are worried that this reconsideration will only add more time to the total process.

According to an article published by Philly.com, “After an Inquirer article last year on Philadelphia having the longest wait time in the country for appeals was published, the federal government added administrative judges to the two Philadelphia appeal offices. Wait times significantly decreased by the end of the year. As of March, the average wait time for an appeal hearing in Philadelphia was 13 months, and the judicial backlog was down to 3,000 cases in one Philadelphia office and 3,500 in the second. In November 2017 each office had about 10,000 cases pending.”

Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Pa.) said Wednesday that the reconsideration step is “adding more red tape” to the process, saying “It may prevent some people from being able to access the benefits to which they are entitled,” Evans said.

To learn more about this new step for Philadelphia residents, click here.