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|SSVE Budget Support Letter|
January 25, 2018
As a group of vocational rehabilitation professionals, we request that the 2018 budget for the Social Security Administration (SSA) be approved at the level of at least $12.457 billion. SSA needs adequate resources to administer the Social Security programs. Additional funding is needed to ensure that SSA can provide all critical services to retirees, survivors, and people with disabilities and their families.
Without that level of funding it will be impossible to reduce the backlog of cases awaiting a decision by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). As of the end of July, the average waiting time was 628 days from the time a hearing was requested until a decision was rendered by an ALJ. There are approximately 1.1 million claimants who have filed an appeal and are awaiting a disability hearing. To make significant progress on the disability appeals backlog, SSA must hire hundreds of new judges and the staff they need to write decisions, schedule hearings, compile files, and perform the other tasks needed to properly adjudicate claims and make accurate decisions. More hearings also will require more contracts with medical experts, vocational experts, and interpreters.
Furthermore, additional funding would support the frontline operations which occur in field offices across the nation. This level of funding would allow for the opening of three cooperative disability investigations (CDI) units which assist with SSA fraud prosecutions.
An important issue is the 890,000 full medical Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) that are scheduled to occur during FY 2018. Such funding would serve to eliminate the CDR backlog. Closely associated with that process is the conducting of 2.8 million redeterminations regarding the Supplement Security Income (SSI) program.
As the Social Security Administration becomes more “green” it is essential that business processes regarding the use of medical information and case processing systems be upgraded. That requires SSA employees to engage in training opportunities to help them maximize their efficiencies. The information technology (IT) infrastructure must improve to enhance data driven decision making.
For the reasons noted above, we request that you consider appropriating and approving an operational budget that will allow SSA to reach its goals and provide timely and adequate services to all people who require the services they are expected to provide.
Michael L. Blankenship, MA, LMHC, BCPC, CRC, NCC, CCM