Many disabled workers with pending disability appeals may have to wait longer to receive benefits than originally expected. The Social Security Administration’s progress in resolving a massive backlog of Social Security disability benefits appeals is undermined the current Congressional budget impasse, The Washington Post reports.
Social Security and disability benefits claims have increased in the past few years and the agency currently pays out $800 billion in benefits every year. The Social Security Administration reportedly received 8.2 million new claims in 2004, which increased to 10 million new claims in 2009.
Social Security disability claims are also routinely denied. Approximately 65 percent of new disability claims are denied and many injured workers must appeal to receive the benefits that they are entitled to. Appeals piled up and the administrative law judges responsible for deciding these cases were quickly overwhelmed.
It took well over a year for an average appeal to be resolved in August of 2008. To remedy the overly lengthy resolution process, the Social Security Administration hired more judges and support staff, and the average appeal time went from 532 days to 390 days.
A backlog of 705,370 pending hearings still remains, the Washington Post reports. The progress on the lengthy appeals process is now undermined by the current budget impasse, which has impacted most federal agencies. A report released last week by the Congressional Research Service indicates that the Social Security administration’s progress on the backlog will not last because extended continuing resolutions mostly fund the agency at last year’s level.
The funding levels are also below the President Obama’s budget requests for the Social Security Administration, which failed to include the increases in claims and the massive backlog of disability benefits appeals.
In response to the lack of funding, the agency cannot hire new staff to process appeals and halted efforts to open planned hearing offices. This means that the 705,370 disabled workers with backlog claims will languish in the system for much longer than they expected.
Source: Washington Post, “Claims for Social Security benefits on the rise,” Lisa Rein, 3/28/11