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Johnson Statement on GAO Disability Report

July 20, 2012

Washington, DC – This week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its report on Modernizing SSA Disability Programs: Progress Made, but Key Efforts Warrant More Management Focus.  The GAO found that six of the fourteen categories of medical conditions considered severe enough to qualify an applicant for benefits, known as medical listings, have not been revised by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in over 30 years.  Two of these categories, mental and musculoskeletal, which together account for the medical conditions of almost 65 percent of those receiving benefits, have not been revised for 27 years.  

Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) said, “Something is seriously wrong when people are coming on the rolls through standards that haven’t been looked at in more than 30 years.  Americans deserve a program where the right decisions are made, especially when the Disability Insurance program will be unable to pay full benefits in just four years.  Social Security owes it to the American taxpayer to keep all the listings up to date.”

The GAO found that the SSA’s disability programs do not reflect today’s views of disability.  The SSA needs to incorporate greater consideration of individual function into the medical listings, according to the GAO, and more fully examine how assistive devices and workplace accommodations could improve disability decisions.

Chairman Johnson added:  “We can’t let old thinking continue to drive disability programs.  The all-or-nothing standard of the last century doesn’t serve those with disabilities or the taxpayers who support the program.  We will hear more about GAO’s findings in our ongoing hearing series on securing the future of the Disability Insurance program.”