Duffy Fellow Co-authors Inquirer Op-ed

Duffy Fellow Jennifer Burdick with Tom Duffy

(Philadelphia) Duffy Fellow Jennifer Burdick has co-authored a thought-provoking op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer on the proposed addition to the already lengthy process for disability determinations in Pennsylvania.

Burdick co-authored the piece with U.S. Representatives Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle, democrats from Philadelphia who are members of the House Ways and Means Committee which oversees Social Security. Burdick works as a staff attorney in the Public Benefits Unit at Community Legal Services in a position funded by the Duffy firm. There, she helps poverty-level Philadelphians navigate public benefits such as cash assistance, SSI disability, food stamps, or health insurance.

“Jen works to ensure that low-income and indigent Philadelphians have access to the protections to which they are entitled under the law,” said Tom Duffy, firm founder. “The op-ed is a testament to the heart she pours into her work every day.”

The op-ed piece tackled a controversial move by Social Security to extend the wait time for disability benefits, putting low-income Philadelphians who cannot work at risk for draining their savings and going into debt. Pennsylvania has some of the longest wait times in the country for disability benefits approval, on average 2 years, noted the piece. The Social Security Administration seeks to extend that wait time by reinstating an additional step, known as reconsideration review, which was originally abolished in 1999.

When someone applies for Social Security disability benefits, the case is first evaluated by a state disability agency, noted the authors. If that person is denied, he or she may request a hearing before a judge. Reconsideration review would take place as an additional step before that person could see a judge. With no new evidence presented, the authors argued that the step is a “rubber stamp” review that is unnecessary yet could add another 100 days to the process. The additional step may even prevent some qualified applicants from appealing.

Burdick and co-authors advocated that the Social Security Administration should abolish reconsideration review so that Pennsylvania can continue its progress toward reducing wait times for disability benefits.

Burdick’s role at Community Legal Services is part of the Duffy Fellowship, established in 2012 by Tom Duffy to underwrite staff attorney salaries at some of the area's foremost legal service nonprofit organizations. Duffy Fellows are now at the Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Community Legal Services, and the Homeless Advocacy Project. The Duffy Fellowship continues to give back, not just in the work of the fellows, but how they also work to change the stigma of the poor or disadvantaged.

Since 1988, the Duffy firm has advocated on behalf of victims of catastrophic injury and their families, obtaining results in the hundreds of millions for clients. To learn more about the firm, visit www.duffyfirm.com.