A year ago, we reported in our newsletter that Social Security had, at that time, 990,399 open disability cases waiting for decisions and that the average time to process a claim was 422 days. Since then—and despite promises from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reduce the number of open cases—the logjam has only gotten worse. As reported by the Washington Post, the number of open cases has now gone over the one million mark and the average processing time has climbed to 450 days.
All the way back in May of 2007, SSA acknowledged the backlog and launched its first plan to move cases along faster. However, auditors from the Inspector General’s office were sharply critical of the SSA’s efforts and said, “Even with the implementation of numerous backlog initiatives since 2007, SSA’s pending hearings backlog had increased significantly, and the [average processing time] had gotten worse.”
The Washington Post reported that “(the auditors) report…found four lingering reasons: The number of requests for hearings has increased, the federal judges who hear appeals have become less productive, there are fewer attorneys on staff who could decide cases without going through the lengthy hearing process and fewer judges overall.”
The new head of SSA’s disability appeals office says she is “putting the finishing touches” on a plan to reduce the number of pending cases and speed the system up. Terrie Gruber said that her goal is “compassionate and responsive” service to applicants for disability benefits “We’re committed to new ways of doing business.”