Friday, February 29, 2008



Disability Backlogs in Kansas and across the nation

According to reports, the social security adminstration may hire as many as 250 administrative law judges (these federally appointed judges are the individuals who make decisions on disability claims at the hearing level) in the next two fiscal years.

No doubt, this is a good thing, of course, for claimants in Kansas and every other state. More judges may "potentially" assist in controlling the growth of the federal disability hearing backlog problem, if not actually reducing it.

However, what Congress typically fails to understand and what the media always fails to grasp about the social security disability SSI system are the following facts:

1. It doesn't matter how many disability judges you hire if you don't budget additional support staff at the hearing offices. That's because while judges hear cases, they don't do the work up on files and they don't compile decision notices. Hearing office staff do that. So, what happens if you increase the number of judges and don't increase hearing office staff commensurately?

This is what happens: cases do not move any faster than they did before AND each individual judge actually ends up with less work to do (because having more judges means each judge having fewer hearings to do---that is, if you don't increase the support staff needed to work-up the files and, in effect, provide more hearings for judges to hold).

2. Focusing on the backlog problem at the hearing level is good, but continuing to always ignore the severe shortage of workers at the social security field office level is a good way to shoot yourself in the foot. After all, how do disability claims even get started in the first place? Here's how. A person goes down to the social security office and sets about the task of filing for disability. That means they have to speak with a field office claims rep. And those claims reps are increasingly drowning under too much work. Why is this? Because the social security administration does not have the money it needs to replace workers who quit or retire. And whose fault is that? The U.S. Congress.




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