Senate Report Highlights Concerns About Disability Claim Backlogs

What do Sen. Tom Coburn's trees have to do with a Senate subcommittee's recent report on the current backlog of disability benefit applications?

It turns out that Sen. Coburn (R-OK) called for an investigation into the Social Security Administration's disability benefits application process after learning that a man cutting trees in his yard was also receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, which are supposed to be awarded only to people who cannot participate in substantial gainful activities.

The report, which was written by the Republican staff of the Senate's subcommittee on investigations after a bipartisan investigation, found that administrative law judges -- who decide appeals of federal disability claims -- were not always properly citing medical evidence when making positive disability determinations, due in part to a massive caseload that sees some judges processing more than 500 cases a year.

The Senate's report goes on to claim that the Social Security disability trust fund is due to run out of money in 2016, especially given the recent uptick in disability applications linked to the slow economy. (According to an article about the report in the Washington Post, disability applications increase during times of economic hardship because people who were working despite their disabilities file for disability benefits when they are laid off.)

The Post also quotes a Social Security Administration (SSA) spokesman that the SSA has "undertaken a vigorous set of quality initiatives since the time most of these cases were filed about five years ago, and data indicates that we have made substantial progress."

To read about the report and the claim backlog in the Washington Post, click here.

To read the Republican staff's report, or to watch the hearings that were held by the committee, click here.

Article Last Modified: 10/03/2012