Thousands of disabled Bay Staters in dire need of federal aid are facing longer delays after a Patrick administration decision to furlough more than 80 percent of the workers handling their claims, officials and advocates say.
The move sets up a battle between the state and the federal government, with the nation’s top Social Security honcho calling Gov. Deval Patrick decision “incomprehensible” and saying he cannot rule out legal action.
“I can’t conceive of how anyone would think this would make any sense,” U.S. Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue told the Herald. “Massachusetts isn’t saving money. I just think it’s incomprehensible.”
Astrue said the Patrick administration told him that 228 of 272 employees in the state’s two Disability Determination Services Offices, which process thousands of disability applications a year, are to be furloughed. So far, 14 DDS managers have been furloughed. Astrue questioned the logic in furloughing the workers when the office is federally funded.