Wednesday, May 14, 2008



How many Social Security Disability and SSI cases are Backlogged in the System?

According to the Association of Administrative Law Judges (administrative law judges, a.k.a. disability judges, are the individuals who make disability claim decisions at the hearing level, whereas disability examiners make those decisions at the disability application and request for reconsideration levels), the number of SSD and SSI cases that are backlogged in the federal disability system is---758,000.

However, of the total backlog, 446,000, or 59 percent of the total, are actually backlogged at the hearing level. This is not surprising and is what I would expect.

The backlog, from my vantage point, actually began to go stratospheric under the Bush administration, specifically under the tenure of former SSA commissioner Joanne Barnhart. Ms. Barnhart had a knack for advocating radical (i.e. unrealisitic and doomed to fail) overhauls of certain aspects of the social security disability process. Her last initiative, known as DSI (disability service improvement) was an absolute flop---that was so DOA that anyone who was using their noggin to evaluate it should have known this from the very beginning (I spent many pages here criticizing it). DSI, of course, is now defunct.

However, Ms. Barnhart, before DSI, managed to birth another monstrosity called HPI, which, I believe, stood for hearing process improvement. Again, an absolute joke. HPI, in my opinion, is what caused a steadily growing hearing backlog at SSA to mushroom exponentially.

Here's the thing. There is no pie-in-the-sky way to "improve efficiency" at the social security administration. You can't do it with electronic files, you can't do it with making workers generic, you can't do it by trashing the whole system and trying to replace it with federal reviewing officials (they tried to take the jobs currently done by reconsideration-level disability examiners and have them done by tons of newly hired lawyers who had never worked as decision-makers and cost a lot more to boot---Wow, that's so smart, Ms. Barnhart, I am in awe of your reasoning abilities).

Here's the only solution to backlogs. It is the only solution there is. It is the only solution there ever was. And it is the only solution there ever will be, which is A) Hire enough workers at SSA to get the job done right and B) Hire enough workers at SSA to get the job done right.




Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog



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