SSA budget bump may ease California SSDI backlog

Considerable attention from the media, the public and government watchdog agencies, like the Government Accounting Office (GAO), has been focused on the Social Security Association in recent months. The scrutiny has come in the wake of the beleaguered agency's struggles to deliver its services to the public. Clearly, this is a national problem, but the effects of the SSA's difficulties have been felt by thousands upon thousands of California citizens, as well.

The SSA is tasked with the oversight of several programs, including Social Security Retirement Benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Much of the scrutiny of SSA has been concentrated on the Social Security Disability program due to a backlog in the claims process. For example, SSDI claimants may not receive an initial benefits determination for several months. Then, should the claimant need a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ), they may wait several more months. Some Californians have experienced wait times of well over a year before learning whether they will ultimately qualify for SSD benefits.

Not surprisingly, budgetary issues are at the root of the problems. As baby boomers retire and reach ages where they are more prone to disability, SSA rolls have increased. At the same time, though, the agency's budget has remained flat. Last month, Congress - recognizing SSA's precarious situation - disregarded the White House's request not to increase the SSA budget and allocated an additional $480 million to the agency, which is the largest in the federal government.

Of the almost half-million dollars, $100 million is earmarked for improving wait times for SSDI claimants. It is uncertain how soon Californians will begin to see results from the additional funding, but it will certainly not be overnight. Meanwhile, the assistance of a seasoned SSDI attorney can help to ensure that the process moves along as smoothly as possible.

Source: Albany Times Union, "Schumer promises to push for money to help local Social Security offices improve service," Paul Nelson, April 16, 2018.

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