The San Antonio Express-News recently ran a short editorial about the shameful backlog in processing Social Security disability claims by the Social Security Administration. I do disagree when the editorial says the problem is a lack of judges. Administrative Law Judges cannot perform their jobs without staff., I believe a lack of staff is a bigger problem than a lack of judges. Here is the editorial:
The system that is supposed to help those least able to help themselves is failing them.
Appeals of Social Security disability claims are taking years to get resolved.
That wouldn’t be such a problem if the individuals seeking the help were not relying on the funds to support themselves.
Social Security disability payments are supposed to help those individuals unable to do any kind of substantive work for at least 12 months because of physical or mental disabilities.
Generally, only one in three applications is usually approved. Interestingly, two thirds of the appeals are eventually granted.
Often the individuals seeking disability payments are left homeless through eviction, forced to declare bankruptcy or die before their cases are resolved, the New York Times reports.
The problem appears to be a lack of sufficient judges to hear the appeals.
The growing numbers of applications has caused the appeals time to grow from 258 days in 2000 to 500 days today. The backlog of cases waiting adjudication has increased from 311,000 to 755,000 during the same period, the newspaper reports.
The agency wants to hire 150 new appeals judges to handle the stockpile of cases, but the plan is being held up by politics.
In some states, those waiting for their Social Security disability cases to be resolved are turning to the state government for assistance.
It’s a shame that a system established to help is instead aggravating the problems.
Initial decisions on Social Security disability applications are made based on the paperwork submitted; there are no face-to-face interviews until it goes to an appeals judge.
If two-thirds of the cases rejected are eventually approved, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the way cases are handled at the inception.