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Mar 31, 2009

State Furloughs And Social Security -- Bad Situation

From a report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG):
SSA reimburses the DDS [Disability Determination Services, which are agencies of state governments] for 100 percent of allowable expenditures up to its approved funding authorization. The expenditures include both costs directly related to claims processing (such as disability adjudicators’ salaries) and indirect costs. ...

To deal with budget deficits, some States have instituted, or are considering, furloughs for State employees—including staff at the DDSs, which are 100 percent funded by SSA. However, Federal regulations state:

Subject to appropriate Federal funding, the State will, to the best of its ability, facilitate the processing of disability claims by avoiding personnel freezes, restrictions against overtime work, or curtailment of facilities or activities. ...

Additionally, on February 3, 2009, California began delaying payments to individuals who provide consultative examinations and medical records. California also notified SSA that there would be a 30-day delay in payment (which was due to SSA by February 26, 2009) of the estimated amount of its March 2009 federally administered State supplement to SSI recipients. ...

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, SSA spent $1.8 billion funding DDS operations for almost 14,000 DDS employees who processed about 3.6 million disability claims nationwide. ...

However, SSA’s ability to process this workload will be negatively impacted by furloughs. As of March 3, 2009, of the 52 DDSs,

  • 5 were furloughing,
  • 3 were considering furloughs ...

Of the five States furloughing:

  • California is furloughing all DDS staff 2 days each month through June 2010.
  • Connecticut had one voluntary furlough day for managers on February 13, 2009. Since then, the Governor has extended the request for voluntary furloughs to all State employees through June 1, 2009.
  • Maryland is furloughing 2 unpaid holidays for all State employees and additional furlough days for State employees within certain salary ranges through June 2009.
  • Massachusetts is furloughing DDS managers 3 days through June 2009.
  • Oregon is furloughing DDS managers from 1 to 4 days, depending on salary range, through June 2009....
Of the 52 DDSs,
  • 5 had hiring freezes,
  • 1 was considering a hiring freeze ...
The attrition rate for DDS disability examiners was 12.5 percent in FY 2008 and 9.8 percent in FY 2009.
In related news, Commissioner Astrue and Congressman Early Blumenauer have jointly authored an op ed piece on this subject in the Oregonian.


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    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    One major issue in the states is the problem with treating some employees differently than others. In general, it's difficult to do it under collective bargaining agreements.....and the unions generally don't like to make exceptions.......especially based on source of funding........you could make the same argument for UC workers, VR workers in many situations, since they are in major part often funded by federal dollars........difficult situation without an easy answer nationally.

    6:39 AM, March 31, 2009  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Massachusetts and Oregon are only furloughing managers and they would not be covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

    SSA should take these jobs away from the states and put them back into the federal workforce.

    8:16 AM, March 31, 2009  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Attrition rates look horrible for the DDS. I bet the furlough issue is really just the tip of the iceberg for all other poor work environment problems.

    So SSA has backlogs at ODAR and elswhere that cannot be solved...hmmm...this is not rocket science...SSA should fix the unilateral powers it gives to the states. You will not fix the backlog problems until you fix the state powers you allow them to enjoy. Maybe this will also indirectly help fix the obvious morale issues pushing attrition rates so high.

    11:21 AM, March 31, 2009  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The Feds can take over private banks, it shouldn't be too difficult to take over DDSs.

    SSA, it's time to take control.

    11:25 AM, March 31, 2009  
    Anonymous Nancy Ortiz said...

    Taking over the DDS's is harder than it looks. True, the states love to mess up DDS', cut staff, fire and furlough people, but they love the "free money" from the TF's and Gen Revs. The states also administer unemployment benefits as we learned when the Southern Republican governors decided they don't want federal unemployment money because it would cost 'em money in the long run.

    But, they've been taking the feds' money for their basic puny unemployement benefits, haven't they, with no complaint. I have always wanted to do away with state DDS's and ODO or whatever they call it now. I hear you, but we are as likely to see this happen as to see pigs fly.

    10:13 PM, March 31, 2009  

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