Recent Congressional Testimony Highlights Pain of Delays

From the Statement of Beth Bates, Claimants’ Representative, on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Jackson, Tennessee:

…The focus of this hearing is extremely important to people with disabilities. Title II and SSI cash benefits, along with the related Medicaid and Medicare benefits, are the means of survival for millions of individuals with severe disabilities. They rely on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to promptly and fairly adjudicate their applications for disability benefits. They also rely on the agency to handle many other actions critical to their well-being…

Because the economic downturn has led to an unexpected surge of new applications, SSA finds itself at a critical crossroads. The wave of new claims is having a very significant impact at the state Disability Determination Services (DDSs) that will eventually affect the hearing level. At the DDS levels (initial and reconsideration), the number of new applications, applications waiting for a decision, and processing times are all on the rise. In fiscal year (FY) 2009, SSA received 385,000 new claims, an increase of nearly 15% since the end of FY 2008. Even more worrisome is the growing backlog of pending initial claims at the DDSs, i.e., those waiting for a decision, up nearly 40% since the end of FY 2008.

In FY 2009, the news was more positive at the hearing level. For the first time in a decade, SSA finished FY 2009 with fewer hearing level cases waiting for a hearing and decision than at the beginning of the year. But we are deeply concerned that any progress in eliminating the hearing level backlog will be delayed as the surge of new applications are denied and then are appealed, putting SSA’s plan to eliminate the hearing level backlog by 2013 at risk.

While recent appropriations have allowed SSA to

While the current situation is dire, without adequate, ongoing appropriations to fund SSA, the forward progress recently made by the agency will deteriorate, leaving people with severe disabilities to wait years to receive the benefits to which they are entitled. See full testomny here