“… The most acute bottlenecks are at the appeals level, where the average processing time is now 515 days â€” compared with 274 days in 2000. Such delays are especially pernicious because slightly more than one-quarter of all approved claims are awarded after an appeal hearing, and nearly two-thirds of the people who appeal ultimately prevail. Without the benefits they are entitled to, far too many applicants get sicker and experience severe economic hardship, including foreclosures and even homelessness. Some applicants die before their appeals are heard.
The fault lies primarily with Congress. For many years, lawmakers have consistently cut into the budget for the Social Security Administration, which administers the disability program. Since 2000, the cumulative shortfall â€” the difference between what the agency has asked for and what Congress has appropriated â€” is $4.4 billion, with more than $2 billion of that in the last few years.
In the same period, demands on the agency have grown, resulting in a chronic shortage of people to do the work. Disability claims have risen, to 2.5 million in 2006 from 1.3 million in 2000, driven in part by the aging of the population…
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