Subcommittee members took turns asking David Rust, SSA acting deputy commissioner of the Office of Disability and Income Security Programs, on various issues besetting the agency including the problem on the proposed rules on the appeals process and on SSA funding.
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) expressed concern about the backlog, and noted that the proposed rules change in the appeals process would only make the process more difficult and further discourage people to make appeals. Pomeroy, however, urged the agency to proceed slowly with the proposed rule.
On the other hand, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) also held similar views on the proposed change.
About two-thirds of the estimated 2.5 million disability applicants are often turned down by state agencies at the initial stage. Many of them give up after this or after the reconsideration stage.
Data showed that backlogs in disability claims are caused by some 575,000 applicants who had continued to go on with the appeals process.
As a result, the growing delays in the appeal process over the last decade due in part from litigation and financing shortages was further complicated by the lack of new administrative law judges. In addition, the number of applications is rising as baby boomers reach their 50s and 60s.
Meanwhile, the Social Security administration has pledged to speed up decisions on the backlog cases. As initial step, the agency said, it had already taken measures for quicker approval for those who are clearly eligible for the benefits. The agency added that it has also increased the number of hearings by video.
The agency however insisted that it will need more funds to address the shortage of administrative law judge to hear appeals cases. The agency needs at least $100 million extra fund on top of the $9 million promised by the President to raise the number of judges to 1,200.
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