Fighting For An Adequate Budget
Claims for Social Security and disability benefits have grown in recent years, the result of baby boomer retirements and high unemployment. The Social Security Administration received 10 million new claims in 2009, up from about 8.2 million in 2004.This sort of article seldom appears spontaneously. Some member of Congress asked for that Congressional Research Service report. Probably, someone asked that member of Congress to ask for that report. Someone pointed out the report to the Post. Someone fed the Post information about backlogs at Social Security. Someone told them that even the Obama budget for Social Security is inadequate. We cannot know for sure but there is a good chance that Social Security's press office was involved in planting this story since they are quoted. I am glad to see that a good fight is being put up to get Social Security an adequate operating budget. This is exactly the opposite of what happened when Jo Anne Barnhart was Commissioner of Social Security.
With 65 percent of new disability claims initially denied, appeals began piling up, and administrative law judges who hear these cases were overwhelmed.
By August 2008, an appeal took an average of 532 days to resolve. The agency hired judges and support staff to speed up the process, and by last year the average appeal took 390 days. There was still a backlog of 705,370 pending hearings.
But progress has been undermined by the budget impasse affecting most federal agencies, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Without a budget for the current fiscal year, the Social Security staff has had to cut short its efforts to improve efficiency. ...
The report also says that President Obama’s budget requests for the Social Security Administration in recent years have not covered the increases in claims and backlog in appeals. ...
In response, the Social Security agency has suspended efforts to open eight planned hearing offices to process claims in Alabama, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, Texas, Montana, California and New York, spokesman Mark Lassiter said. Overtime has been largely eliminated, and a hiring freeze has blocked new staff to process appeals.
The extended stopgap measures have “made it much more difficult” for the agency to reduce the backlog in disability claims, he said.
“We have many high-traffic offices where all day long, our employees interview people filing for benefits,” said Witold Skwierczynski, president of the union representing local Social Security field offices. “Then they have to process a case. That takes time.”