From the testimony of Social Security Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Colvin at today's House Social Security Subcommittee hearing:
Due to tight budgets in fiscal years (FY) 2011 and 2012, we have suspended or postponed lower priority activities so that we can continue to achieve our most important goals—eliminating the hearings backlog and focusing on program integrity work. Our available funding in FY 2012 is almost $400 million less than what we operated with in FY 2010. At the same time, our fixed costs and our workloads continued to increase. We lost over 4,000 employees in FY 2011, and we expect to lose over 3,000 more employees this year that we cannot replace. We simply do not have enough staff to complete all of the work for which we are responsible, and we made strategic decisions about the areas in which we must do less with less.I don't know what's going on in other places but the hearing backlog is certainly growing where I am. Given the hiring freeze and the elimination of contract hearing reporters, it's hard for me to see anything other than an increase in hearing backlogs nationally over the next year.
Eliminating the hearings backlog remains our top priority. With the resources we received in FY 2012, we can still achieve our commitment to reduce the average hearings processing time to 270 days by the end of FY 2013 provided we are able to hire enough administrative law judges. It will be an extraordinary accomplishment because we have faced a significant increase in hearing requests due to the economic downturn. While we cannot afford to complete the level of program integrity work authorized under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) because Congress did not appropriate the full amount, we will increase the number of program integrity reviews that we conduct by 90,000 more full medical continuing disability reviews (CDR) this year.