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SSDI Hearing Backlog Making Headlines Again

2014 October 20
by Steve Perrigo

The Washington Post’s report on the SSDI hearing backlog brings long waits back into the public eye this week. The line of claimants waiting for hearings continues to grow since reaching a low of 705,367 at the end of fiscal year 2010.

The Post states the backlog stands at 990,339 disability claims, which is significantly higher than other federal backlogs—526,000 claims at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and 606,000 patent applications at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

As reported here, the national average wait time has inched up again to 422 days in FY2014 from a low of 360 days in FY2011. Earlier this year, the Social Security Administration’s Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin stated in a Congressional hearing that the agency’s emphasis has turned to quality and accuracy, not speediness for hearing-level decisions. The data appears to corroborate this deceleration.

New resources provided this fiscal year have concentrated on efforts to detect fraud and improper payments, such as continuing disability reviews (CDRs), rather than claims processing. In addition, the backlog did not receive a single mention in the SSA’s FY 2014-18 Strategic Plan. This is a shift from previous plans, when dedicated funding initiatives were aimed at reducing the hearing backlog and wait times.

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