Where Are All of the Decisions?
The Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) has reported a 14.9% reduction in hearing decisions per month for April through July 2020 compared to the previous months of fiscal year 2020. We have noticed the trend has continued through August and we are waiting to see if there is a surge in September just before the end of the fiscal year.
Overall we have seen the number of our pending claims increase since March 2020, but Social Security has continued to follow their traditional pattern with a peak roughly every three months in decisions/awards. The last few months in July and August have been particularly down in terms of decisions, which could be the added impact of summer vacation combined with effects of the pandemic and working remotely. The Social Security data for August 2020 has not yet been released, but for July 2020 the ratio of awards to Disability Determination Services receipts (Initial and Reconsideration claims) was 41.18% compared to an average of 54.6% from May 2019 through June 2020. This is a significant decline in awards. Our hope is that we see the usual peak again this month or in early October which will be the first month of the 2021 fiscal year. However even if we do get the quarterly spike, overall decisions across the board are down and we can only hope that we start see the productivity increase in FY 2021. With our volume of pending cases high and record numbers of hearings scheduled over the next three months for our clients we anticipate decisions and awards to increase again soon to get back to 2nd quarter levels.