Nov 14, 2012

Budget Shortfall Creates Challenges

While timeliness and ALJ [Administrative Law Judge] productivity have improved, an increased number of applicants has led to an increase in the hearings backlog. By the end of September 2012, the backlog stood at about 817,000 cases, an increase of almost 30,000 cases since the start of the FY [Fiscal Year]. ...
With the loss of DDS [Disability Determination Services] employees and a high level of initial disability claims receipts anticipated in FY 2013, SSA [Social Security Administration] does not expect to achieve its initial claims pending level goal of 525,000 by FY 2014. In fact, in FY 2013, SSA expects that pending initial disability claims will rise to over 1.1 million. ...
SSA stated that the current level of funding would lead to a loss of employees. In FY 2012, it lost over 1,600 employees. Consequently, the Agency projected its national 800-number service will deteriorate significantly because it will not have a sufficient number of employees to answer calls. Busy signals rose from 3 percent in FY 2011 to 4.6 percent in FY 2012. The average speed to answer also increased from 180 seconds in FY 2011 to 294 seconds in FY 2012 [that's about five minutes]. Additionally, SSA estimates it will be unable to complete all its post-entitlement work [that is putting people on benefits after they have been approved -- computing their back benefits and authorizing payment]. The Agency believes its inability to handle this work timely could result in improper payments and delays in collecting overpayments.
     This is all going to get worse if SSA's appropriation stays where it is now under the continuing resolution, which is slightly below last year's amount. SSA needs a larger appropriation merely to prevent further deterioration. If Congress wants even marginal improvement, SSA needs a significantly larger appropriation. And the result if Social Security's operating budget is cut dramatically by sequestration is almost unthinkable.

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