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SSA Budget Set At $12.5 Billion, $90 Million Allocated For Hearing Backlog

2017 May 5
by Steve Perrigo

The Senate and U.S. House of Representatives approved a $12.5 billion budget for the Social Security Administration and designated $90 million to address the disability hearing backlog in a measure now making its way to President Trump, which he is expected to sign.  

The SSA will finish out fiscal year 2017 with a budget reduction of $60 million compared with FY 2016. One-time costs for building renovations provided in FY 2016 account for the majority of the decrease. The bill also supports program integrity efforts at the fully authorized level of $1.8 billion, an increase of nearly $400 million over the FY 2016 enacted level.  

The $90 million is designated through September 30, 2018, for the Office of Disability Adjudication Review to address the disability hearing backlog. This omnibus overrides December’s continuing resolution that provided $150 million for the SSA’s disability hearing backlog. Since December, the backlog has hovered around 1.1 million claimants, with more than a dozen cities topping 700 days and the average wait time growing from 569 days to 585 days.  

Lawmakers directed the SSA to provide a report within 90 days containing specifics on how they will address the disability backlog. The SSA’s CARES Plan, which explains the agency’s strategy for eliminating it by FY 2020, has data on the role of administrative law judges (ALJs). There are few specifics on additional milestones necessary for the SSA to eliminate its backlog in four years.  

Concerns voiced by legislators in discussions have included the need for the SSA to demonstrate documented progress. Lawmakers also asked the SSA to ensure hiring administrative law judges continues with allocations to National Hearing Centers, which focus on video-based hearings and require less travel time by ALJs.

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