Sequestration Taking Toll On Processing Times, Case Backlogs

We have been following news of the sequestration since it took effect on March 1. While the funding cuts have taken a toll on several federally funded agencies, it has not affected the sum of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits available to those who qualify.

However, there have been reports of delayed processing times and services because of employee reductions with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Last month, an editorial by Witold Skwierczynski, president of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals, and Barbara J. Easterlin, president of the Alliance for Retired Americans, ran in the Huffington Post, describing the affects of the sequestration.

Skwierczynski and Easterlin argue that the SSA has been weakened by the sequestration. “Cuts to the SSA budget will weaken program oversight and could make it more difficult to pay benefits accurately and for mistakes to be promptly corrected,” Skwierczynski and Easterlin indicate. “Two straight years of budget cuts and hiring freezes have crippled Social Security’s ability to handle dramatic workload increases, and the additional cuts required under sequestration will cause further erosion.”

“Office hours nationwide have been slashed by 23 percent, which has had a detrimental effect on processing new claims. In most offices, citizens have to wait more than 30 days to get an in-person meeting or telephone interview to file benefit applications or complete appeal requests,” the authors said. “The odds of getting a busy signal when calling the toll-free number have tripled in the past six months alone, with 16 percent of citizens unable to reach even the automated menu when they call.”

Skwierczynski and Easterlin go on to say that the SSA intends to “fire more than 1,500 temporary employees, cut nearly all overtime and leave unfilled more than 5,000 positions as employees retire.” This will result in an expanding backlog of claims, they say. “It will take half a year to process each new disability claim, up from 111 days currently, and the backlog of pending claims will grow from 861,000 at the end of fiscal 2012 to more than 1 million by the end of fiscal 2013. Rural beneficiaries would be particularly hard-hit.”

We are concerned about extended delays in processing times because of the sequestration. However, people should not let this news discourage them from applying for benefits. In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, the SSA requires applicants to show that they cannot do work because of their medical conditions. For more information, we suggest you visit our FAQ page.

If you have questions about an application for disability benefits, do not hesitate to contact our Tulsa Social Security disability lawyers for a free consultation. You may also reach us by phone at (918) 265-1404.

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys

Troutman Touts: You can apply for SSDI benefits over the phone, through the Social Security Administration’s website or by visiting a local SSA office.

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