With the election of Barack Obama as our 44th President, we can expect some changes with the Social Security Administration’s disability programs. In an October 20, 2008 letter to the AFGE, the union that represents SSA employees, President Obama first reassured the AFGE members that he opposes privatizing Social Security Administration programs. Secondly, he believes there is an urgent need to increase funding for the agency’s administrative expenses. This would most likely mean additional staff hired to handle the increased work load of the agency. The need for this becomes clear for anyone who has visited a Social Security office anywhere in this country over the last few years.
President Obama’s letter gives us some of the facts: “Due to prolonged underfunding, SSA has reduced staffing levels even as its workload has increased. SSA agency staffing will soon reach its lowest level since 1972 even though SSA’s beneficiary population has nearly doubled since that time. An unfortunate result of underfunding is an unprecedented backlog in SSA disability claims. As of August 2008, about 767,000 people were awaiting a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on their Social Security disability claims, compared to about 312,000 cases pending in October 2000. There has also been an increase in Field Office waiting times.” Increasing the staff at the Hearing Offices and Field Offices could finally begin to reduce the wait time and backlogs. Let’s hope Congress is ready to act on this issue as well. To see the letter go to//www.afge.org/index.cfm?fuse=document&documentID=1938.
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