Feb 28, 2008

First Reports On Appropriations Hearing

Here is part of a report on the February 28 House Appropriations Committee from the Associated Press:
An infusion of cash from Congress and President Bush will help the Social Security Administration cut into the months long backlog for disability benefits for thousands of Americans, officials said Thursday.

However, advocates said a one-time budget increase won't be enough to solve the problem, and they urged Congress to give the agency another cash infusion to battle the long waits faced by those seeking disability benefits. ...

...advocates said the 2009 increase still isn't enough, considering the influx of baby boomer applications that Social Security is about to confront. Astrue said they expect retirement claims to rise by 40 percent and initial disability claims will go by nearly 10 percent. ...

"In order for SSA to meet its responsibilities, we estimate that the agency needs a minimum of $11 billion," said Matt Ford, co-chair of the Social Security Task Force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. ...

Ronald G. Bernoski, president of the Association of Administrative Law Judges, said the judges won't be able to do anything if they don't have support staff, he said. "To hire 175 new judges without hiring the necessary staff is like buying 175 new trucks but only enough fuel to operate 20 of those trucks," Bernoski said.

The Washington Post's Stephen Barr indicates that Astrue used the hearing to continue his attacks upon Administrative Law Judges:

Astrue said most ALJs do a good job, but he made it clear he has no power to discipline bad apples in their ranks. He said he is frustrated by his inability to deal with "gross misconduct" by judges, especially those accused of fraud, domestic violence and soliciting prostitution.

Disciplinary actions brought against ALJs end up before the Merit Systems Protection Board, which hears federal employee appeals, resulting in months of litigation and, in Astrue's view, a "paid vacation" for the accused. "I'm offended by that," he said.

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