Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Problem is not Social Security, but Congress

The following post was submitted by a social security administration field office claims representative who has recently separated from the agency.

It seems apparent that most of the media is of the belief that the disability hearing backlog is the chief and foremost problem with the Social Security disability program. I would suggest that the hearing backlogs are just symptomatic of a larger problem, one over which the social security administration can exercise little control. The slow processing of disability claims (from the disability application level through to the ALJ hearing level) is the direct result of Congress’ negative attitude when it comes providing sufficient funding, not only for replacing SSA employees who are retiring, but also for budgeting additional employees to process the ever-increasing workload of retirement and disability claims that are filed each year.

Currently, Social Security is only replacing one out of every eight employees who leave the field offices and most Social Security field offices, payment centers, and hearings offices are understaffed and overworked. Overworked employees struggle to meet the demands set forth by the Social Security Administration in response to Congressional processing demands. Making matters worse, social Security employees who are able to retire are doing so at an alarming rate, no doubt partly due to the stressful work environments encountered by most SSA employees.

Should this concern Americans? Yes. About seventy five percent of the Social Security workforce is eligible to retire, and the Social Security Administration does not have the funding to hire new employees. But even if SSA did have the funding to hire a sufficient number of new employees, such workers require training, training of the sort that must be provided by existing workers. Claims reps, for example, are not considered to be proficient at their jobs for approximately three years following their date of hire. It is alarming to think it, but five years from now the Social Security Administration’s ability to accurately process disability and retirement claims could be greatly affected by lack of training and incredible workloads.

Rather than blame SSA or SSA administrators, Americans should hold their elected representatives to Congress accountable for the current and future processing of administrative law judge hearings as well as initial disability applications, retirement and Medicare claims. Congress controls the amount of money provided to the Social Security Administration not the Social Security Administration, so hold your Congressmen accountable for your future.

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