The Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) created 61 years ago with a worthy goal of reinforcement to help workers pay bills and make ends meet. In case an illness or injury occurs and leaves them unable to work for a year or more. However, reforms needed to fix Social Security Disability Insurance Backlog.
Yet, the bureaucracy, mismanagement, and loss of permanent leadership at the Social Security Administration (SSA) have reduced the program’s effectiveness. Therefore, the wait time for hearings and decisions made by an Administrative Law Judge on eligibility for Disability Income (DI) benefits been a small increase. But the average nationwide wait time for a hearing decision was 353 days in 2012. Now it’s 605 days in 2017.
However, an average worker applying for Disability Income Benefits has paid into the program for 22 years or more. Yet 1.1 million Americans trap in this outrageous backlog, with devastating consequences. Therefore the person’s health gets worse and possible death. As a result, their financial situation worsens as their savings and 401K are empty and have to turn to family and friends to help pay bills. Unfortunately, thousands of people die while waiting and over 10,000 people died before getting an SSDI hearing in 2017. This is unacceptable for people who are waiting for a decision.
Even though Congress provided SSA with $90 million to correct the backlog. For example, hiring additional Administrative Law Judges and support staff to decrease the backlog. But with the remedy of funds, SSA estimates the backlog will not return to reasonable levels until 2022.
Yet money alone won’t fix the backlog problem. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) analyst testified at a congressional hearing agrees money cannot fix the backlog. However, SSA is using the resources that they currently have as efficiently and as effectively as they can. The GAO found several examples where SSA is not utilizing to speed up the decision process well with the SSA’s authority. For example, it’s been decades since SSA update many of their processes policies and tools for evaluating eligibility.
Compassionate Allowance (CAL) Initiative
There are some of the most severe illnesses that SSA consider to be Compassionate Allowance (CAL) initiative. CAL was created to reach a decision quicker. But the initiative is not working as well as it should. As a result, the same hearing the GAO found other problems that people fall through the cracks. Due to SSA’s internal terminology does not match medical descriptions used externally.
In addition, plenty of small and large changes needed, but SSA has been without permanent leadership since 2013. As a result, it’s difficult to nominate and confirm a new SSA Commissioner that can take the DI program off of autopilot and start getting it on the right track.
Equally, there’s plenty of blame to go around for this backlog crisis. But also reasonable, affordable, and workable options to help people with legally qualifying disabilities and obtain decision faster and more efficiently. The Ways and Means Committee need to explore practical reforms to the DI program and eventually stop the backlog.
If you been waiting for a long time for SSDI hearing decision contact Jackie Walorski represents Indiana’s, 2nd District, member of the Ways and Means Committee.
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