Campaign Promises

Other/Miscellaneous -> Independent Organizations -> SSA

ItemIndependent Organizations
IO-72 The Promise: "The SSA's [Social Security Administration's] disability claims backlog has reached a record high of 755,000, up from 311,000 in 2000. The average wait time for an appeals hearing averages 505 days and...can exceed three years...Barack Obama and Joe Biden are committed to streamlining the current application and appeals procedures to reduce the confusion that surrounds these important programs."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Empower Americans with Disabilities" dated 09/06/08.
Status:In FY2009, the number of claims received by the Social Security Administration (SSA) was about 2.8M. At the end of FY2009, there were 779K claims for disability benefits awaiting hearing before Administrative Law Judges. These judges hear appeals from claimants who were initially denied benefits.

In FY2010, the number of initial disability claims rose to 3.1M. The SSA saw a $1B increase in its budget for FY2010, up to $11.4B. This increase should have permitted information technology improvements that could have improved the claims processing turn-around time. This didn't happen. The SSA was also to open eight new hearing offices. This also didn't happen.

It was estimated that with the 5,800 additional personnel the SSA was to hire in FY2010 and increased overtime to handle an escalating workload, the SSA should have been on track to eliminate its claims processing backlog by FY2013. Federal budget cuts put the brakes on this potential momentum -- the SSA was under a hiring freeze and had no funds for overtime for its current staff.

There were over 759K disability claims pending at the end of FY2011, down from 842K in FY2010. This number went down slightly to about 750K at the end of FY2012.

The number of backlogged disability claims caused some disability applicants to wait nearly four years (over 1,400 days) before their disability benefits could begin. While 270 days is the SSA's goal for settling claims, a goal that the President's FY2013 budget proposal claims would be met for disability appeal hearings by 09/13, 316 days was the actual average the SSA was experiencing as of end-CY2012.

In FY2016, the SSA's budget was $12.6B, largely unchanged since FY2010 ($11.4B), while serving 6M more people than in FY2010.

By end-CY2016, the backlog had swelled to nearly 1 million applications, about a 30% increase over CY2012. The average wait for a hearing had swelled to 602 days. Also by end-CY2016, there were reportedly 7,400 people on waitlists who had died while awaiting claim resolution, according to a report issued by the SSA's Inspector General.

By the end of President Obama's two terms in office, the SSA had reportedly hired 500 new administrative law judges, bringing the total of such judges to about 1,600. More than 600 support staff were also hired to assist with the backlog.

This promise was not fulfilled.
IO-73 The Promise: "...will also ensure that the SSA [Social Security Administration] has the funding it needs to hire judges and staff and to invest in technology to expedite final decisions. Obama supported the $150 million increase in the SSA's budget that was vetoed by President Bush this year. As president, he will continue to work to ensure that the SSA has the resources it needs for hiring and to more effectively process its caseloads."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Empower Americans with Disabilities" dated 09/06/08.
Status:Based largely upon the President's request, the FY2010 budget for the Social Security Administration (SSA) was $11.4B, a 10% increase over the FY2009 enacted level. This increase was intended to permit the SSA to hire about 5,800 replacement and 1,300 new personnel largely intended to replace the SSA's information technology infrastructure.

In FY2011, reality set in. The SSA was supposed to receive $12.4B but operated on its FY2010 budget of $11.4B. The SSA also lost $200M in funds intended for addressing its claims backlog. Those funds were taken by Congress as part of the stopgap measure to prevent a government shutdown in 03/11.

SSA's plans to open eight new SSA hearing offices were postponed. There was also a hiring freeze in effect for FY2011 at the SSA and no funds were available for overtime to pay the current staff to accelerate elimination of benefits payments caseload backlogs. FY2012 hiring was limited to positions classified as critical to the SSA.

As of early-CY2013, the SSA did not have the resources it needed for hiring additional personnel and to more effectively process its caseloads. In fact, the SSA acknowledged a loss of 4,000 personnel in FY2011, another 3,000 in FY2012 and lost an additional 2,000 in FY2013 due to budget cuts.

The completion of efforts to develop a Disability Case Processing System (DCPS) and Health Information Technology (Health IT) systems to replace up to 54 COBOL-based systems currently used will be a huge step in mitigating caseload backlogs. As of end-CY2016 the DCPS had not been rolled out/activated.

Nonetheless, the funding increase promised to SSA to hire judges and invest in technology improvements was delivered during President Obama's first term in office.

This promise was fulfilled.