February 9, 2017
SSA Continuing Resolution Places Focus on Hearing Backlog
Hundreds of thousands of Americans apply for SSDI each year, often because they are facing sudden and unforeseen illnesses or injuries that may last years—or even for the rest of their lives. In their evaluation of the overall SSDI application process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) hopes to identify opportunities for improvement so that more individuals who truly need these benefits can receive them as quickly as possible. One step toward this goal has been made via a Continuing Resolution that just recently passed, which changes the way that previously budgeted funds will be dedicated to the hearing stage of the application process.
On December 9, Congress passed another Continuing Resolution, funding the government at similar levels through April 28, 2017 (a 0.1901% across the board reduction in spending). The Social Security Administration was named specifically in the measure: now $150 million dollars that had been allocated to the SSA to renovate a Federal Building must now be used to address “the hearing backlog within the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.”
While the SSA has not yet indicated how they will specifically be applying this reallocation to the address the backlog, we will continue to pay close attention to any changes they make to the claims process, wait times, etc. We will share updates here as new information becomes available. We are hopeful that this effort will be effective in reducing the number of claims pending at the hearing level across the country so that more individuals and families in need of the financial security that monthly SSDI benefits can bring are able to focus on health and time together rather than on a lengthy application. However, the Federal government is currently under a hiring freeze, so it does not appear that these appropriations may be used to add additional personnel or administrative law judges to address to help process the large number of claims.