Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claimants in California, as in the rest of the United States, have been plagued by delays in both initial claims decisions and most egregiously, in the wait times for hearings before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), in a recently-released report, says that crushing workloads and a failure to fully adopt technologies that would increase efficiencies at the Social Security Administration (SSA) is part of what is causing the delays. The report goes on to detail the challenges that SSA faces in trying to serve SSDI benefits claimaints.
One particularly difficult challenge for SSA to surmount is the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. The Baby Boomers represent 80 million members of the U.S. population, and they are reaching the ages that account for the greatest numbers of disability claims: 50s and 60s. The GAO report predicts that the number of SSDI claims will continue to rise over the next few years, adding to the SSA's already unwieldy workload.
Compounding this is the fact that over 20,000 SSA employees are themselves due to retire by the end of fiscal year 2022, taking with them important leadership and deep knowledge of the SSA. The combination of increasing numbers of claims and the loss of experienced personnel will continue to strain SSA's ability to serve SSDI claimants unless steps are taken to alleviate the strain by increasing budgets, adding personnel and enhancing technology.
Enhanced technology is one of the primary concerns that GAO has about SSA's ability to provide service. Some claims can be submitted online, but SSA has kept incomplete records on the problems users face with the online applications and challenges that need to be overcome to increase usage. Until SSA workloads improve, the only thing GAO has indicated that helps claimants succeed more often is representation. Anyone who has been denied SSD benefits should seek the help of an experienced attorney.
Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office, "Social Security Administration: Continuing Leadership Focus Needed to Modernize How SSA Does Business," March 7, 2018