For the first time, more than one million disability claims are pending initial decision, taking an average of 220 days for a decision, about 100 days longer than in 2019 before the pandemic. About half of the denied claims appealed to an administrative law judge hearing are being approved. In the last two fiscal years, federal courts returned about 6 in 10 disability appeals back to Social Security to make new decisions.
The more than 1,200 Social Security field offices did reopen in April 2023, after the three-year COVID-19 shutdown. A nationwide settlement in Campos v. Kijakazi, 21 Civ. 5143 (VMS) (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 20, 2023), will benefit more than two million SSI recipients who incurred overpayments during the pandemic. (See: https://casetext.com/case/campos-v-kijakazi-14.) Social Security will waive some overpayments without request, including refunds already paid, and some waivers will be granted based on new guidance to consider COVID-related circumstances when making findings of fault for overpayments. Claimants not getting an automatic waiver will be sent notices telling how to seek a waiver and will highlight the COVID-related factors.
In 2024, benefits will increase 3.2 percent. The maximum federal SSI benefit for individuals will increase to $943 and will increase to $1,415 for couples.
In Congress, the introduced We Can’t Wait Act of 2023 (S.3400), would end the 5-month waiting period that delays Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Other proposals in Congress would raise the full retirement age to 69 from 67 and further reduce early retirement benefits taken at age 62 and preclude anyone over 62 from applying for disability insurance. Any changes in Social Security law can have significant impact on the residents of Pennsylvania, and as changes occur, we will continue to provide information to the public and assist our clients with any legal issues.