A March 2018 report has made it clear that the Social Security Administration’s current workload is untenable if the agency hopes to ease the backlog of Social Security Disability Insurance claimants it is facing. This report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office was released shortly after a January report from GAO found wide-ranging inconsistencies in hearings results and criticized the amount of time claimants are waiting before SSD benefits hearings are held. In its latest findings, GAO identified the challenges that SSA is currently facing and that must be faced to deliver the levels of service SSD benefits claimants require.
The Baby Boom generation, and its 80 million members, are the reason for much of the claimant workload that SSA is facing. Baby Boomers are reaching their 50s and 60s, the ages most associated with disability claims. This, in turn, has resulted in a steady increase in SSDI claims in recent years, which has strained SSA’s ability to deliver the services that it is required to, particularly under current budgetary conditions, which do not allow for sufficient additional staffing to meet the demands of the workload.
Baby Boomers are causing additional headaches for SSA as they reach retirement age: More than 20,000 seasoned SSA employees are expected to retire prior to the end of fiscal year 2022. This will deplete institutional knowledge and leadership within the agency, which could place further stress on its ability to manage its workloads unless something is done to prepare.
According to GAO, increased adoption of reliable technology is one way that the SSA could meet the challenges it faces. However, the agency has already demonstrated a lack of follow-through when it comes to technology. Some of the applications and processes that are available online have proven to be challenging for claimants, but SSA has done little to compile or address the types of problems that claimants have encountered on its sites. Reports by GAO indicate that the only thing sure to help SSD claimants who are scheduled for a hearing is to proceed with a representative, such as an attorney. And although represented claimants are three times more likely to prevail, GAO could find no empirical reason as to why this should be, either.
Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Social Security Administration: Continuing Leadership Focus Needed to Modernize How SSA Does Business,” March 7, 2018