The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, under the chairmanship of Senator James Lankford (R-OK), will hold a hearing on Thursday, May 12 at 8:00am CT entitled, “Examining Due Process in Social Security Administrative Hearings.”

This hearing will focus on the massive social security disability backlog nationwide, the independence of Social Security Administration (SSA) agency judges, and the due process afforded to individuals appearing before them for disability benefit decisions. According to the latest available data through March of this year, there are 13,169 pending social security disability cases in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City Social Security Administration Administrative Law Judge office has 6,364 cases, while the Tulsa office has 6,805 cases. The average processing time for a hearing is 478 days for the Oklahoma City office and 411 days for the Tulsa office. The national average at the end of FY 2015 was 480 days.

Senator Lankford has been a long-time advocate for reforming the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program in order to strengthen the program for disabled Americans and reduce fraud and waste within the program. In October, Lankford offered a robust reform proposal, as an amendment to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, to improve the adjudication process for appeals and reconsiderations; prevent individuals from receiving SSDI who are not disabled; and ensure stronger program integrity, processing and oversight. Earlier this year, Lankford joined Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) in challenging the Senate to consider SSDI reforms.

Federal agency adjudication and appeal judges often make decisions on government assistance and entitlement program benefits, including Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicare. Recently, the SSA proposed removing two classes of adjudicatory hearings from the purview of Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) and transferring them to Administrative Appeals Judges and Attorney Examiners within SSA’s Appeals Council. This change would impact tens of thousands of social security disability cases, potentially depriving individuals of their right to a decision by an independent judge, free from undue agency influence. This hearing will also examine the current ALJ issues at SSA and the broader issues of independence and agency control of officials who conduct administrative hearings throughout the federal government.

WHAT: Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management hearing entitled, "Examining Due Process in Administrative Hearings"

WHEN: Thursday, May 12 at 8:00am CT (9:00am ET)

WHERE: SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

List of Witnesses:

Theresa L. Gruber

Deputy Commissioner, Disability Adjudication and Review, U.S. Social Security Administration

Marilyn D. Zahm

Administrative Law Judge, Buffalo, New York Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, U.S. Social Security Administration

Joseph Kennedy

Associate Director for Human Resources Solutions, U.S. Office of Personnel Management