What the Social Security Disability System needs
An individual who I have a great deal of respect for recently wrote me about the status of social security disability. He said he had the impression that the system was becoming more complex. This is what I wrote back.
"I'm not so sure that there's more complexity, but the backlogs are definitely getting worse. The former commissioner of the social security administration, Joanne Barnhart, tried to institute a program called DSI, or disability service improvement. They were going to toss out the reconsideration step and replace it with a new disability appeal layer that would have utilized attorneys working under the title of Federal Reviewing Officials. Essentially, it would have amounted to zero improvements, would have cost more, and would have added more bureaucracy to the system. The DSI initiative would also have potentially reduced claimant's appeal rights. I knew from the start that DSI was dead-on-arrival. And under the new commissioner, Michael Astrue, the plan was dropped. It just didn't make any sense on so many levels.
Truthfully, what management at SSA never acknowledges is this one simple reality: to get rid of the backlogs and put the agency on a course to greater stability, they need more warm bodies. They hate hearing stuff like that, but its true. Currently, they do not hire to replace workers lost to retirement and simple attrition. And, inevitably, that will catch up with them. The agency is slowly decaying and the decay will only get worse because so many SSA workers are eligible for retirement and so many of them are getting fed up with the current workloads (when someone quits or retires, they don't hire a replacement, they simply redistribute that worker's cases to the remaining workers). My wife is a field office worker, so I get to hear how bad it is on the "front lines". And it's pretty bad."
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