Administration Should Work With Congress to Fund SSA, Begin to Clear SSA Disability Backlog

Dec 13, 2007
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Despite repeated warnings on the implications of inadequate funding for the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the growing delays in processing disability applications and appeals, the Bush Administration recently issued a veto threat for an annual appropriations bill containing funding for SSA’s administrative costs. Budget proposals from the Administration have not provided SSA with adequate funding to hire new Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to process the claims. If the Administration’s veto threat persists and funding is not increased for SSA, this would have significant repercussions for people struggling with severe disabilities, who are caught in a multi-year delay for a decision on their appeal for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits from SSA.

A recent editorial from the New York Times, included below, further outlines the danger of the veto threat and inadequate funding for SSA.

"For years now, the Bush Administration has short-changed SSA, leading to delays in processing disability claims," said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY). "Congress presented the Administration with a common-sense proposal to fund SSA at a responsible level that would allow them to hire additional judges to process more claims and begin to work down the backlog, but the Administration’s only answer is a veto threat. This is ironic, coming from an Administration that presided over some of the largest increases in Federal spending in recent history. The Administration must rethink its wrongheaded veto threat if we are to do something about the worsening backlogs at SSA and fulfill our mandate to serve people with severe disabilities."

If the Social Security Administration were to receive only the amount of administrative funding provided in the President’s budget, the consequences would be dramatic:

The backlog of disability cases awaiting processing would continue to grow unabated, rising to nearly 1.4 million (combining initial applications and appeals to an ALJ).

The backlog of appeals awaiting a hearing before an ALJ would exceed three-quarters of a million cases, nearly double the level in 2001. The already lengthy waiting times on these appeals would increase even further, to 541 days.

SSA could not hire the 150 ALJs it had planned to hire under the proposed Congressional appropriations level, which are needed to process these appeals. Elsewhere in the agency at local field offices, payment processing centers and teleservice centers a hiring freeze would prevent replacement of any staff that retired or left the agency, worsening service delivery at the local level. This would lead to longer lines and more busy signals for more than 40 million Americans who visit local SSA offices every year.