SSA cuts disability claims backlog

The Social Security Administration reduced its backlog of disability claims during fiscal 2007 and trimmed the time it took to make decisions on initial claims, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said today.

“Better systems and business processes were essential to the progress we made in 2007,” Astrue said in a statement. SSA employees logged tens of thousands of overtime hours to make that progress, the agency said.

SSA also nearly eliminated its backlog of fiscal 2007 aged disability hearings cases, which are cases pending 1,000 days or more. SSA said it reduced those cases from 63,770 cases in the beginning of fiscal 2007 to 108 by the end of September.

The time taken to process initial disability claims declined 6.3 percent, from 88 days in fiscal 2006 to 83 days in fiscal 2007, SSA said.

The agency also has established a National Hearing Center, which lets a group of administrative law judges use video technology to hear cases from areas of the country with the largest backlogs.

SSA issued a final rule in September that extends nationwide its Quick Disability Determination process that uses a predictive model to analyze data elements in the electronic claims file. The process identifies claims where there is a high probability that the person filing the claim is disabled and where evidence of the individual’s allegations can be obtained quickly and easily.

In New England, where SSA tested the process, the agency identified about 3 percent of new cases that could fall under the quick determination process. It took an average of 11 days to process those claims. As a result, Arizona, New Jersey and North Dakota have started using that process as part of SSA's nationwide implementation, which the agency plans to complete early next year.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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