Recession Causing Increased Application Numbers

According to Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue and other experts on disability claims, the faltering economy is causing an increase in applications of between 15 percent and 25 percent. SSA originally anticipated receiving 2.6 million to 2.65 million applications for disability benefits in fiscal 2009, but upped its prediction to 3 million and another 3 million for 2010. Recently, the agency adjusted its estimates again, increasing the projection for 2010 to 3.3 million applications. …

Astrue says the agency has been making inroads, reducing processing times by 4 percent each of the past two years. The recession, however, has reversed the progress on the backlog of cases. At the beginning of 2009, SSA had 550,000 cases pending at the state level. The state-run SSA-funded Disability Determination Services do much of the initial processing and eligibility determination for applicants. The number of claims pending at the state level, which does not account for applications at other stages of adjudication, is now up to 725,000. …

“We’ve been stymied at the state level,” Astrue says. “There’s this callous ‘Kumbaya’ attitude that if there’s going to be pain, everyone has to suffer. For me, it’s beyond comprehension that you would make a civil service suffer unnecessarily and make claimants in desperate need of assistance wait much longer than they otherwise would.” …