Lawmakers Need to Do a Deep Dive to Remedy SSD Backlog
January 11th, 2018 by Attorney John Colvin
The Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI) was created in the 1940s to provide workers with an emergency backup plan to help pay their bills and make financial ends meet in case of an accident or illness. But many people believe that red tape, mismanagement and inconsistent leadership at the Social Security Administration (SSA) have made the SSDI program largely ineffective.
How ineffective? According to Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), the average national wait time for an SSDI hearing decision is 605 days, up from 353 days in 2012. The typical U.S. worker applying for his SSDI benefits has been paying into the program an average of 22 years. Still, more than 1 million Americans are stuck waiting nearly two years merely to get a decision about their application, let alone actually being approved.
As the person continues to wait, their health often gets worse. They run out of money and must rely on friends and family to keep them going. Sadly, every year thousands of SSDI applicants die while waiting. It is estimated that 10,000 people died before they got a hearing with the SSA in 2017.
Congress has given the Social Security Administration $90 million to reduce the backlog. Most of that money is slated to be used to hire more judges and staff to work through the wait list of SSDI applicants. Even with the additional funds, the SSA says the backlog will not be substantially reduced for another five years.
In Walorski’s opinion, lack of funds is not the only problem plaguing the SSA. A GAO (Government Accountability Office) analyst recently stated at a congressional hearing that SSA is not using their current resources as effectively as they could. He said there are ways the agency could speed up the decision process on applicants already in the system. For example, processes, policies and tools to evaluate eligibility have not been updated for decades. Doing so could most likely reduce wait times to some degree.
Next, the SSA should improve its Compassionate Allowance (CAL) initiative. This program is designed to get a decision faster for people who have the most severe illnesses. But the evidence shows this program is also functioning inefficiently. The GAO found recently that some applicants are not approved faster just because internal SSA terminology does not match the medical descriptions that are used outside the agency.
Last, Walorski argues that the agency has had no permanent leader since 2013. Having no strong, permanent agency leader is causing the lack of direction at SSA that is costing lives. It is time for this to change immediately. A new and permanent SSA commissioner should be appointed in 2018.
With the improvements mentioned above, the huge backlog of SSDI applicants could be reduced and these people can get the benefits to which many of them are entitled. If you are waiting for a decision about your SSDI benefits or have been denied, please contact John R. Colvin today. He has the experience and skills to get you the benefits you deserve and to get you a decision faster from the SSA bureaucracy.
Have You Been Denied SSDI? Contact an Experienced SSDI Attorney Today.
Social Security disability attorney John R. Colvin has helped people in Tennessee and Alabama obtain their Social Security disability benefits for more than 20 years. We understand how being denied benefits can be a financial calamity for your family. If you have questions about your current situation, please contact John R. Colvin at 931-962-1044, or fill out our online form. Put our experience to work on your case.