Reducing disability claims backlogs is critically important and today’s hearing provides us with the opportunity to assess the progress Social Security is making, most especially after receiving an additional $500 million in stimulus funding to address the backlogs.
While there can be no doubt that these are challenging times for our constituents and Social Security, at the end of the day, our constituents want, need, and deserve real, lasting progress – not excuses. To that end I do want to give a tip of the hat to the North Dallas hearing office for being nearly tops in the nation in terms of case processing times.
Mr. Chairman, I would note that today’s hearing marks the seventh hearing held by the Social Security Subcommittee this Congress, five of which have focused on these issues.
And while backlogs are a serious problem, the reality is that Social Security’s Disability Insurance program faces an even more serious problem that is just as deserving of our attention. As we know from the Social Security Trustees, the Disability Insurance program has experienced cash flow deficits since 2005. According to the Congressional Budget Office, full promised disability benefits cannot be paid beginning in just eight years.
Thus we have a responsibility to our constituents to make sure that benefits will be there.
The sooner we act to responsibly put this vital safety net for those with disabilities on solid financial ground, the better.
An important part of this effort must include a full commitment by Social Security to stop those from receiving benefits they don’t deserve. Those committing fraud aren’t just cheating the American taxpayer, but also their fellow Americans who genuinely need disability benefits.
Just as the American people are counting on Social Security to quickly process their claims, they are also counting on Social Security to do all it can to deter fraud. Social Security should make going after waste, fraud and abuse a top priority.
With that said, I am especially pleased to welcome our witnesses from the Cooperative Disability Investigation Unit in Houston, Texas. Deputy Sheriff Willrich and Special Agent Durkin will tell us about the joint efforts of local law enforcement, Social Security and State Disability Determination Service employees to fight fraud and abuse related to initial and continuing disability reviews.
I thank our witnesses for joining us today and look forward to hearing their testimony.