SSA judges advised to slow review of Social Security Disability applications

Workers in the New Berlin area and other areas of Wisconsin who are not able to work because of disability may be familiar with the long review process for Social Security Disability Insurance. A directive given by managers at the Social Security Administration did not help approval times when Social Security Disability judges and workers were told to slow down the review process on purpose.

The point of the directive to slow down the review of Social Security Disability applications was to increase the performance numbers of the program for the coming fiscal year. The new fiscal year started on Monday, and Social Security judges and employees in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee participated in the purposeful slowdown.

The directive to slow application approval originates from an anomaly in the federal government’s fiscal calendar. Last week fell between the federal government’s 2011 and 2012 fiscal years. The wrinkle in fiscal time happens every five to six years because government officials are only allowed to count 52 weeks in their calendars. If last week would have been counted towards 2011 there would have been 53 weeks in the fiscal year. The consequence for the Social Security Disability is that any applications for disability benefits completed last week would not have counted towards the program’s objectives set for judges and field offices.

As a result, applicants bore the burden and thousands of Americans had to wait one more week to be approved. Normally, Social Security judges handle 3,000 cases each week. Last week they only handled 230 cases. Fortunately, this week is the beginning of a new fiscal year.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Disability payments slow as managers chase targets,” Damian Paletta, Sept. 30, 2011

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