Substantial growth in the numbers of disability claims, staff losses and turnover, and management weaknesses have contributed to the backlog problem. Initial applications for benefits grew more than 20 percent over the period while SSA experienced losses in key personnel: claims examiners in the state determination offices and administrative law judges and support staff in the hearings offices. In addition, management weaknesses evidenced in a number of initiatives to address the backlogs have failed to remedy and sometimes contributed to the problem.The GAO report does not mention that GAO itself was a cheerleader for several failed initiatives at Social Security: Re-engineering, Hearing Process Improvement (HPI) and Disability Service Improvement (DSI). These initiatives have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars and have only made the backlogs worse. GAO's harping over the years on the theme of "management weakness" has been a major factor in bringing about all those failed initiatives.
Far from recognizing its own culpability, GAO seemingly questions the decision to end DSI. GAO recommends that Social Security "conduct a thorough evaluation of DSI before finalizing the agency's decision on implementation." To its credit Social Security's response to this GAO report "expressed concern that the draft report did not sufficiently emphasize SSA’s need for additional funding and noted that the success of future efforts to reduce the disability claims backlog will depend on adequate and timely agency funding."
I think it is time to paraphrase Ronald Reagan: The GAO's advice is not the solution to Social Security's problems. The GAO's advice is a major part of Social Security's problem. I recommend that the Social Security Administration quit listening to GAO, because GAO does not know what it is talking about. GAO is the one in need of a thorough evaluation of its own "management weakness."