Throughout its history, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has faced many challenges. Despite an increase in the number of disruptions over the past several years – including a robust backlog of inventory, several furloughs due to government shut downs, increases in instances of scam and fraud, and most recently, the removal of Andrew Saul as commissioner – none have had impact on the Social Security landscape like the current global pandemic has. For many individuals applying for Social Security benefits, navigating these challenges have only increased the complexity of navigating an already confusing application process. At Brown & Brown Absence Services Group, we continue to keep on top of any changes that occur at Social Security as we focus on three areas.
Using our voice in the marketplace
At Brown & Brown, we are a proud to have a voice in the marketplace. We strive to use that voice to encourage Social Security to make the necessary changes needed to address issues – such as an increase in inventory backlog – to ensure benefits are released timely and accurately to claimants who need them. When Kilolo Kijakazi was appointed as Acting Commissioner of Social Security earlier this year, we sent her a letter wishing her luck in her tenure and highlighting some of the key areas of concern that we see each day. Among those include a delay in:
- The time it takes after an application or appeal is filed to reach the disability review office;
- The time to adjudicate a file, particularly when a consultative exam is deemed necessary; and,
- The processing and sending of the Notice of Award after the decision is rendered.
It is our hope that Acting Commissioner Kijakazi will help move Social Security forward and make the necessary changes. In closing, we highlighted what we know to be our shared mission:
“We see the distressing impact of these delays on our clients each and every day and we all need to do better by them.
“We are fully committed to doing our part, continuing to keep our clients informed, assured, and moving forward seamlessly throughout the process. We are entirely confident that you share this commitment and will see to it that the critical improvements needed are made.”
Keeping our clients informed
While Social Security had made significant improvement in addressing their backlog prior to the pandemic, the pandemic itself has caused a backlog much larger than before. At this point, an applicant can expect their Social Security claim to take a lot longer than originally expected. While pre-pandemic most initial applications received a decision within 4–6 months, that is no longer the case. There is an extensive slow down at Social Security, with some cases taking well over a year for a decision to be received.
At Brown & Brown, we continue to offer our guidance and support as we navigate the Social Security process and shoulder as much of the application process for our clients. As we receive pertinent information from Social Security on individual claims, or about changes occurring within SSA, we work to ensure that this information is provided to relevant parties and individuals in a complete and timely manner.
Preparing for the future
As we watch as Social Security begins the process of looking for its next Commissioner, we remain hopeful that changes will occur that ultimately betters the situation of our clients. The global pandemic is not the first incident to cause a major disruption at SSA, and it will certainly not be the last. At Brown & Brown, we use our history in the market and industry-wide expertise to help get in front of changes or disruptions that may occur. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is that we cannot be prepared for what we do not expect, but we can prepare for what we might expect. In using our resources and technologies, we hope to more actively equip ourselves with tools needed to navigate any further disruptions that result on Social Security’s end.