Despite a growing number of Americans who need Social Security services, the administration is slowly losing employees. According to the Office of Personnel Management, the Social Security Administration employed 65,717 people as of September 2015. This figure fell to 64,264 people by March 2016. The difference may not look extreme, but the loss is keenly felt as the number of Social Security beneficiaries and claims continue to rise. A greater workload for each employee can mean Americans feel the bureaucratic red tape a bit more and wait longer for benefits they need to house, clothe, feed, and care for themselves. It is possible that budget cuts and fewer Social Security employees could lead to additional denials that require appeals. And evidence shows the wait time for appeals has increased drastically in the past couple of years. If you are attempting to claim Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and things are not working out, call the Charlotte SSDI lawyers at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. for advice on what to do next.
Social Security Administration’s Budget Reduced
In June 2016, the Senate Appropriations Committee cut the SSA budget by almost 5.5 percent, the Los Angeles Times reported. Social Security officials requested $13.1 billion and received $12.5 percent. Kathleen Romig, senior policy analyst for Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found the SSA operating budget has fallen 10 percent since 2010, including adjustments for inflation. Year after year, the SSA has received less money than it needs to meet demand for its services.
Number of Claims Climb in Recent Years
There are 76.4 million baby boomers, individuals born between 1946 and 1965. These individuals are of the age to need a variety of Social Security benefits, particularly retirement and disability. The Senate Special Committee on Aging found baby boomers were filing “claims at record numbers.” The SSA reported a 33 percent increase in retirement and survivor benefit claims between 2007 and 2014.
Clearly the demand for benefits is higher than in previous years and there is no reason to believe it will decrease. However, while more Americans need the help of the SSA, the administration is continuously constrained by budget cuts and fewer workers in the office and answering phones. People who are trying to claim SSDI benefits may need to work with an attorney to have their questions answered and manage the process instead of calling the SSA.
Budget Cuts Directly Affect Customer Service
Many people do not think of the SSA has a place with excellent customer service. However, the administration has worked hard to provide beneficiaries with quick and clear assistance. Each budget cut makes that harder. Romig points out that with fewer workers, the SSA is less able to quickly determine a person’s eligibility for disability, retirement, and survivor benefits. It is less able to make sure those benefits are paid and that appeals are handled fairly and promptly.
The effect of budgets cuts has already been realized on SSA customer service, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Multiple times in the past six years, the SSA has reduced employee hours at various offices in addition to reducing the workforce at many offices. 64 field offices and 533 temporary mobile offices have closed since 2010. Instead of going to a location, many people call for answers to their questions or information. Unfortunately, almost 10 percent who call hear busy singles. The average time on hold with a Social Security 800 number is 15 minutes.
The only area that has increased services is online options for beneficiaries. Through my Social Security, beneficiaries can fill out forms, make claims review their Social Security benefits and information. However, the population most in need of Social Security benefits – baby boomers – may not have access or familiarity with the Internet and prefer in-person or phone services.
SSDI Claims Backlog
Disability insurance claims rose during the Great Recession, which means so did the number of appeals from rejections. The wait time for an appeal for a denial went from 360 days to 540 days – more than 1 year – from 2011 to 2016, Romig reported. According to an article from The Washington Post in 2014, the Social Security office was 990,399 cases behind. Now, more than one million people are waiting for a hearing. Judges in the system have admitted that people pass away waiting for their hearings.
People within the SSA clearly point to budget cuts as one of the main reasons for the lack of efficiency and backlog. Glenn Sklar, who was the Deputy Commissioner for Social Security’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review at the time, stated “We have a proven track record of getting the job done when we have adequate and sustained funding…We just haven’t had adequate and sustained funding for the past few years,” the Post reported.
A Charlotte Social Security Disability Insurance Attorney Can Help
While a SSDI lawyer cannot make the SSA move any faster, he or she can guide you through the process of a filing a claim and appealing if you were rejected. Most likely you have a number of questions about SSDI. Are you eligible? What forms do you need to fill out? What documents or records do you need to provide the SSA?
An experienced attorney, like those at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. can answer these questions and more. The benefits of working with him and his associates include:
- An experienced team of legal professionals
- Help determining eligibility for SSDI benefits
- Explanation of your rights as a beneficiary
- Assistance filing a claim
- Advice on how to prove your disability
- Appealing an initial decision
- Appealing at higher levels
- Filing for a federal court review if necessary
Overall, working with a SSDI attorney improves your chances of having your claim approved. Very few claims are initially approved so you need a skilled Charlotte, NC SSDI lawyer who will fight for you over the months and years to get the benefits you deserve.
For more information on how to handle your SSDI, call Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. for a free consultation.