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|Sarah Swinehart (202) 226-4774|
Investigation Finds Intentional Social Security Disability Case Delays
Washington, DC - An investigation requested by Ways and Means Committee Republicans and conducted by the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found that agency employees intentionally delayed deciding thousands of disability claims in order to boost their own productivity results. The issue first surfaced in a Wall Street Journal report about a quirk in the fiscal year (FY) 2011 calendar affecting the processing of claims. SSA employees’ inaction was reportedly intended to boost managers’ FY2012 performance numbers with no impact on their FY2011 numbers – raising questions about whether disability benefits were postponed in an effort to secure performance bonuses for the managers. The SSA OIG report specifically looked at hearing offices in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
The key findings of the report, "Congressional Response Report: Oversight of Year-End Hearings Process,” are summarized below:
Since at least 1983, the Social Security Administration has not counted workload totals for the periodic 53rd week in its year-end management data. During the week of September 24, 2011, week 53 in FY 2011, several disability hearing workloads decreased significantly. Hearing decisions and dismissals were most affected and decreased almost 88 percent, compared to an average processing week the rest of the year.
The OIG survey of hearing office personnel in nine States found the majority processed workloads as usual during week 53. However, 17 percent of the respondents stated they changed their case processing. More than half of these individuals attributed the change to how workloads were being counted.
Though SSA headquarters management communicated that business as usual should go on during week 53, they also alerted employees that work processed would not be included in statistical year-end tallies. While it appeared employees were working throughout week 53, local managers did not consistently communicate to employees the importance of continuing processing cases as usual.
To prevent week 53 workload processing declines in the future, the OIG recommends that the SSA “clearly communicate a policy that explicitly states work will be processed and measured uniformly throughout all years, including those with 53 weeks.”