Jul 10, 2012

Doing Less With Less

     The National Association of Disability Examiners (NADE), an organization of the personnel who make disability determinations on Social Security disability claims at the initial and reconsideration levels, has posted its Summer 2012 newsletter. Here is an excerpt from the President's Message column:
Here is a new concept that is ushering in a new era for the DDS. The concept is this: we must do less with less. It comes from part of a sentence in Deputy Commissioner Colvin's testimony to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security on January 24, 2012. The context of the statement is this: Our available funding in (FY [Fiscal Year]) 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.

Simply stated there are not enough trained professionals to handle the number of customers coming through the door, through the internet, or wanting service over the phone. Nobody knows that better than we do at the Disability Determination Service. Last March President-Elect Todd Deshong, Legislative Director Mark Bernskoetter, and I met with several different Congressional Representatives and their staffs that serve on various Social Security subcommittees. We also met with staff people from the Congressional Budget Office and Management and Budget. In each meeting, we passionately explained our attrition rate and the current federal prohibition to hire new employees. We explained how long it takes to hire, train, and mentor new examiners to have any level of significant productivity. We explained that no matter how carefully we interview perspective new examiners that a certain percentage will not make it through the training and probationary period because they will see how difficult and demanding this work is. We explained that our attrition rate, coupled with our historic levels of new claims could only result in one outcome. That outcome is a higher staged backlog. Tens of thousands of new applications with not enough trained professionals to process them. We explained that while we may be funded for more CDRs [Continuing Disability Reviews] in the next fiscal year, the fact remains there are fewer people to process those CDRs. We painted a very vivid picture of an impending storm. We told each of them that they should expect to have their own constituents visit their offices to complain that their disability application has not been assigned to anyone to work on. We explained that even though the numbers are staggering they are not merely numbers but real people with legitimate impairments and many of them will live in their own Districts

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