Backlog of Social Security disability claims likely to grow

While Congress approved additional funding to help the Social Security Administration address a growing backlog of disability claims amid budget battles, experts say other steps are needed.

SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review is struggling to tackle nearly 750,000 pending requests for disability hearings, and the agency as a whole is expecting the number of workers receiving retirement benefits to increase by 13 million over the next 10 years. More than 40 organizations petitioned House appropriators to provide SSA the funds to deal with its growing burden.

"Citizens will be contacting SSA at a time when the agency is closing an increasing number of its field offices because it does not have the funding necessary to keep the offices adequately staffed and the doors open," the petition stated.

Congress eventually gave SSA an additional $150 million over the president's requested $9.6 billion to deal with administrative expenses. This increase, a feat in this year's particularly contentious appropriations environment, will help the agency slow the backlog, but experts say it won't fix the problem overnight.

"One year of an increase in funding over the president's budget request after seven years of underfunding is not going to stop the problem," said Jessica Klement, government affairs director for the Federal Managers Association. "But you can do what you can do with $150 million. It's not going to be perfect, but it will help."

Jim Allsup, a disability claims expert and president of Allsup Inc., a company on Belleville, Ill., that helps people file claims, is urging SSA to give applicants options. Allsup said his company has seen a 168 percent increase in business during the last five years as a result of the exploding backlog.

"This is a complicated process and individuals who apply for benefits without representation are more likely to have their claims denied," said Jim Allsup, president and chief executive officer.

On Wednesday, the company issued a list of the top 10 tips for claims applicants to break through the backlog; the list included everything from checking eligibility to preparing an accurate and full medical record to meeting deadlines.

"The tips were exactly what we would recommend for people filing for benefits and, in essence, what the Social Security Administration would recommend," Klement said. She noted that one of the primary reasons applicants encounter long wait times is they have submitted outdated medical records and the SSA has to wait for more complete records.

Klement says the backlog cannot be eliminated entirely, and the goal is to minimize it so applicants do not wait hundreds of days for a ruling. Current wait times for an applicant filing an appeal after an initial claim has been denied average 524 days.

"Any dent you can make in that is a success," she noted.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.