Social Security:

Increasing Number of Disability Claims and Deteriorating Service

HRD-94-11: Published: Nov 10, 1993. Publicly Released: Nov 10, 1993.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Jane L. Ross
(202) 512-7215
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) disability programs, focusing on: (1) state disability determination services' (DDS) operations; and (2) actions taken by SSA to reduce the number of pending claims.

GAO found that: (1) between 1990 and 1992, claims backlogs and processing times for Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits increased nearly 50 percent; (2) SSA and DDS have not been able to keep up with the increase in benefit claims; (3) DDS tend to have the poorest processing performance in the more populous states; (4) problems resulting from increased workloads include increased workforce stress and use of overtime, employees not performing their normal duties, a decline in workforce morale, an increase in claims being set aside, and a decline in automated systems support; (5) SSA has initiated short-term initiatives to keep up with claims processing that include funding additional DDS overtime, reallocating resources from continuing disability reviews (CDR) to initial claim processing, and reducing the number of pending claims; (6) SSA has estimated that discontinuing CDR will cost at least $1.4 billion because ineligible individuals will continue to receive benefits; (7) although SSA has developed numerous short- and long-term initiatives, the effectiveness of these initiatives could not be determined; and (8) the Secretary of Health and Human Services needs to develop a plan to reduce benefit claims backlogs and resume mandated CDR.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA has improved the process for identifying which beneficiaries should undergo full CDRs and has planned improvements over the next 2 years that will further increase its ability to identify beneficiaries who should undergo a full CDR. Also, SSA has plans to conduct over 8 million CDRs between FY 1996 and FY 2002, which is twice as many CDRs as the agency has conducted over the past 20 years combined.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should develop a plan to reduce the backlog of SSA disability benefit claims.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA has improved the process for identifying which beneficiaries should undergo full CDRs and has planned improvements over the next 2 years that will further increase its ability to identify beneficiaries who should undergo a full CDR. Also, SSA has plans to conduct over 8 million CDRs between FY 1996 and FY 2002, which is twice as many CDRs as the agency has conducted over the past 20 years combined.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should develop a plan to ensure the performance of CDR to the level necessary to comply with Social Security Act provisions. The recommended plan should be forwarded to Congress and should establish a specific time frame for achieving the SSA stated goal of 60-day claim processing times for its disability programs and identify to what extent, if any, additional staffing and funding may be needed for implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 15, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Jul 8, 2016

Mar 14, 2016

Mar 10, 2016

Feb 23, 2016

Nov 9, 2015

Sep 16, 2015

Jun 15, 2015

Jun 3, 2015

Looking for more? Browse all our products here