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Johnson Announces Hearing on Determining Eligibility for Disability Benefits: Challenges Facing the Social Security Administration

August 30, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) announced today that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Determining Eligibility for Disability Benefits: Challenges Facing the Social Security Administration,” on Wednesday, September 6 at 10:00 AM in room 2020 of the Rayburn House Office Building. At the hearing, Members will discuss the Social Security Administration’s plan to reduce the hearing backlog and claimant wait times, other efforts to modernize and improve the disability determination process, and tools available to expedite decisions for those with certain severe conditions.

Upon announcing the hearing, Chairman Johnson said:

Americans rightfully expect that when they file for disability benefits that they will get an answer quickly and not have to wait years for the Social Security Administration to make a decision. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Today, people wait nearly 600 days on average for a decision by an Administrative Law Judge. Social Security has to do better. I look forward to hearing how Social Security plans to get these wait times under control. Americans want, need, and deserve nothing less.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for adjudicating disability determinations for its two disability programs, Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. The wait time for a disability decision at the hearing level has increased from 353 days in FY 2012 to approximately 600 days today. This is after already waiting over 100 days for an initial decision and, in most cases, another 100 days for a reconsideration decision.

In January 2016, the SSA launched the Compassionate And Responsive Services (CARES) plan to address the growing disability backlog. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (P.L. 115-31) included $90 million in dedicated funding to address the disability backlog. In August 2017, the SSA revised the CARES plan to focus on creating business process efficiencies, increasing decisional capacity, and making IT investments.

In 2008, when the SSA was facing a previous disability backlog, the SSA implemented two fast-track programs, Quick Disability Determination and Compassionate Allowances (CAL), to provide expedited processing to claims that are identified as having a high likelihood to be approved. At the hearing, the Government Accountability Office will discuss the findings of a new report on the SSA’s CAL program.