Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Social Security Disability SSI Claims in Idaho

Via Attorney Charles Halls' Social Security News blog, I came across an informative press release from the Idaho Department of Labor that contains some interesting statistical information for residents of Idaho who are either applying for disability or are considering filing for disability.

Good news for Idaho disability claimants: disability determination services in Idaho (the agency that evaluates a claimant's medical records and renders an approval or denial on a claim for disability with the social security administration) ranked number first in the nation in the expediting of claims.

How fast are disability claims processed in Idaho? In fifty-eight to sixty days, while the national average is eighty-four days. The nearly month-long difference in case processing time for Idaho and the country at large is significant since, for individuals who apply for disability, the probability of slipping into a financial abyss increases with the amount of time spent on the processing of a social security disability or SSI case.

What is truly notable about social security disability in Idaho is the fact that these case processing results were obtained at the same time that:

1. The number of adjudicators declined from 26 to 21 (I'm fairly certain that the total decline was counted in terms of disability examiners versus administrative law judges).

2. The Idaho DDS faced a rise in disability cases (a 3.6 percent increase).

Can the results in Idaho be replicated in other states? That's iffy, in my opinion, mainly because the population of Idaho, according to the last census was only 1.46 million. Compare that to the population of North Carolina (8.8 million) and Pennsylvania (12.4 million), medium size states, and you can guess that the dynamics of disability case processing are a bit different.

In fact, when I was a medicaid caseworker, it was very common for administrator-types to latch onto a clearly "apples and oranges" comparison in the attempt to extrapolate an unrealistic determination. That, however, does not take anything away from the acheivement of the Idaho DDS. They are certainly to be congratulated for their fine efforts. And it may be true that other state disability processing agencies will be able to learn from their techniques.

However, the backlogs are such that even increased efficiency and better work techniques are unlikely to make much of a dent. For that, the answer is fairly simple: provide realistic budgets so that a realistic workforce can be maintained in the social security disability system, including disability examiners, field office claims reps, and hearing office support staff.

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