Snapshots from Congressional testimony on delays at all Levels of Social Security

I thought you’d be interested in these these excerpts from some March Congressional testimony, coming from the organization that represents staff in Social Security offices at all levels.
In 1999 SSA had 311,000 hearings pending. There are now an estimated 750,000 hearings pending, an increase of 140%. The average Administrative Law Judge has approximately 750 cases pending per available judge. As a result the average time to receive a hearing decision is often more than two years.

• SSA’s Program Service Centers (PSCs) have seen their pending cases more than double in the past two years, increasing by more than 350,000 cases. Backlogs in the PSCs have contributed to an increase in requests from Congress for status of cases by over 40% and requests for special high priority payment of cases by over 110%.

• Waiting times in Field Offices rose dramatically for the first six weeks of the year. Walk-in traffic increased by approximately 40% from the same time last year. Much of the traffic is due to requirements of the 2005 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA.) This law significantly strengthened the rules for issuing new and replacement Social Security numbers and cards.
• SSA’s 1-800 number received nearly 4.8 million more calls for the first two months of this year compared to the first two months of last year.

• In FY 2005, SSA processed 64% more new claims for Title II and Title XVI disability claims than it did in FY 2000.

• SSA will send out an estimated 2 million letters for those that qualified for Extra Help for Part D Medicare in August to determine whether the amount of Extra Help will change. Many of these cases will need to be reworked by SSA Field Offices. SSA will also mail out an estimated 2 million letters for those potentially affected by the Income-Related increased Medicare Part B Premiums this fall. Many of those affected will contact SSA Field Offices with questions and for assistance in helping them determine the correct premium to pay.

This staffing shortage is one of the key reasons for massive backlogs in the Hearings Offices and Program Service and creates major strains on Field Office employees to handle the increased walk-in traffic. The key problem is that SSA is being given more and more responsibilities without sufficient funding to handle these responsibilities. A much more intensive interview is done for those applying for Social Security Account numbers. This more intensive interview process and review of documents has led to an increased number of visitors that must go home and return with additional documents, sometimes multiple times.

The full transcription of the testimony can be found at this link:

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