A recent FCW article, part 2
Contributed by a former SSA Claims rep
According to the Office of Government Accountability, any initiatives to reduce Social Security hearings backlogs will most likely fail due to the increased number of disability claims coupled with the loss of experienced staff and limited resources.
Former Social Security Commissioner, JoAnn Barnhart suggested that there should be an increase in hiring and training at the earlier disability determination levels to reduce the number of claims reaching the administrative law judge hearings level. More recently, Margaret Malone, special advisor to the Social Security Commissioner, concurred with former Commissioner Barnhart’s statement and went on to suggest that that hiring and training more employees at the initial level would reduce the cost of processing a claim.
Malone indicated that a disability claim processed to a decision at the lower levels costs taxpayers about $1700.00 a claim compared to $2800.00 at the formal hearings level.
As a former Social Security claims representative, I must concur with the statements made in this article. The entire Social Security disability process has to be considered when attempting to solve the immense backlogs at the hearings office. You cannot expect backlogs to decrease unless you hire enough staff to handle disability claims from the beginning.
Currently, Social Security employees are retiring or leaving Social Security at an alarming rate, especially when you consider that Social Security has had no major hiring since 1999. Due to lack of funding from Congress, Social Security is only replacing one out of every eight individuals who leave the field office, when you juxtapose this with the a forty two percent increase in disability claims in the last ten years alone you have a recipe for disaster.
Obviously, Congress is going to have consider providing enough funds to change to the entire process not just the tail end of the disability process, if any initiatives to reduce the incredible formal hearings level backlogs are to be successful.
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