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SSA Gets Budget Increase, Funding To Address Backlog

2018 March 23
by Steve Perrigo

The Senate and U.S. House of Representatives approved an increase of $480 million for the Social Security Administration’s administrative budget, including $100 million allocated toward reducing the disability hearing backlog. The $100 million is to remain available through fiscal year 2019, ending Sept. 30, 2019. President Trump signed the bill into law today, avoiding another government shutdown.

In addition, Congress directed the SSA to spend $280 million toward the agency’s information technology modernization efforts. The House bill listed $12.75 billion in appropriations, which also designated $1.7 billion toward the completion of continuing disability reviews (CDRs), funding Cooperative Disability Investigation (CDI) units and other fraud prevention efforts.

Additional stipulations include requirements that the SSA elaborate on:

  • Implementation of the Disability Case Processing System (DCPS), which is designed to integrate 54 state-based systems into one system for state Disability Determinations Services (DDS) workloads.
  • Its plans to ensure field offices, hearing offices, processing centers and teleservice centers are receiving resources necessary to adequately serve customers across the country.
  • Compliance with procedures for handling field office closures, including coordination with the SSA Office of the Inspector General.
  • Efforts to better manage the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program, including a systemic approach for identifying and evaluating new conditions that qualify. Launched in 2008, the CAL program accelerates disability decisions for individuals with the most severe health conditions.

The budget provides a second round of funding to address the hearing backlog, which has hovered near or above 1 million claimants since FY 2014. In 2017, the SSA received $90 million designated toward the hearing backlog. About half of hearing offices nationwide (87 of 168) now have wait times of 600 days or longer, compared with the SSA’s goal of 270 days. Lawmakers have cited increasing concerns with the hearing backlog as wait times have grown nationally from 480 days in FY 2014 to 605 days at the end of last fiscal year.

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