Sitting on a Million Disability Claims, SSA Says 450-Day Wait Might Be Cut to 270 Days…by 2020

Friday, October 23, 2015
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is still trying to reduce its worst-ever backlog of claims, which went from approaching a million one year ago to actually hitting 1 million cases in 2015.


The agency is struggling to process the claims fast enough, causing the wait time to balloon to 450 days for a decision. But a senior SSA official has developed a plan for reducing the wait time to “only” 270 days by 2020, which Office of Disability Adjudication and Review chief Terrie Gruber says would eliminate the backlog. “Half of the million pending cases are a true backlog,” she told The Washington Post. “There will always be some level of pending cases.”


The number of pending cases is the largest in Social Security’s history, according to Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll Jr.


The backlog is the product of several factors, according to the Post: The number of requests for hearings has increased, the federal judges who hear appeals have become less productive, there are fewer attorneys on staff who could decide cases without going through the lengthy hearing process and fewer judges overall. The agency intends to hire more judges over the next three years, about 1,800 to 1,900.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Biggest Government Backlog is Getting Worse, Watchdog Says, but Social Security has a Plan (by Lisa Rein, Washington Post)

The Social Security Administration’s Efforts to Eliminate the Hearings Backlog (Office of Inspector General, Social Security Administration) (pdf)

Average Wait Time until Hearing Held Report (For the Month of September 2015) (Social Security Administration)

Bonus System to Clear Backlog of Veterans’ Claims Backfires for those most in Need (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Senate Republicans Block International Disability Rights Treaty (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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