For the second time in two weeks, Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano said President Donald Trump must nominate a commissioner to lead the Social Security Administration.
“Social Security hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed commissioner for almost five years,” Johnson said in a statement sent to the Star-Telegram on Thursday. “President Trump needs to nominate a commissioner who will make sure Americans get the service they expect and deserve from the SSA.”
His pleas to Trump come in the wake of a Star-Telegram report that showed people in Fort Worth who have applied for Social Security disability benefits are waiting up to two years just to have a hearing before a judge, and longer in some cities in Texas and across the country. The process before scheduling a hearing can take up to eight months.
Johnson is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, where he serves as the chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee and sits on the Health Subcommittee. He called the long wait time “unacceptable.”
The backlog is causing detrimental financial problems for many applicants who can no longer work and earn income. Some people die before they ever get to a hearing.
“Americans rightfully expect that they will hear back from Social Security quickly, but unfortunately that’s not always the case,” Johnson said in the statement. “Social Security’s hearing backlog is simply unacceptable, and it’s going to take real leadership to turn things around.”
According to the Social Security Administration, more than 1 million Americans are awaiting a hearing with an average wait of two years. Disability attorneys say Congress’ underfunding of the Social Security Administration is to blame. Too few administrative staff and judges nationwide prevent the SSA from running efficiently, they say.
Prominent disability attorney Charles Hall, whose law firm is based in Raleigh, N.C., fears the backlog could worsen in the coming years.
Since becoming chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, Johnson said he has held 18 hearings on the disability benefits program, including one as recently as Sept. 6. In February, Johnson called on Trump to nominate a commissioner, but the position remains unfilled.
A permanent Social Security Commissioner has not been in place since 2013, with acting commissioners having filled the role for more than four years. Nancy A. Berryhill is the acting commissioner.
Then-President Barack Obama nominated Carolyn W. Colvin, but her confirmation stalled in the Senate in 2014, and Obama did not propose a new nominee.
Johnson, a Vietnam War veteran, announced in January that he is retiring at the end of his term.