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Before the Subcommittees on Social Security and Income Security and 
Family Support, Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT:
Tuesday, April 27, 2010: 

Social Security Disability: 

Management of Disability Claims Workload Will Require Comprehensive 

Statement of Daniel Bertoni, Director: 
Education, Workforce, and Income Security: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-667T, a testimony before the Subcommittees on 
Social Security and Income Security and Family Support, Committee on 
Ways and Means, House of Representatives. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

For years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has been 
challenged to manage its large disability claims workload. 
Difficulties in making timely and accurate decisions have contributed 
to backlogs accumulating at different levels of the claims process. 
These backlogs have occurred most often at the hearings level, the 
level at which initial claims that were denied are appealed and await 
a hearing before an administrative law judge. Claimants often 
experienced long waits for a decision on their claim because of this 
backlog. In May 2007, SSA released a plan designed to eliminate its 
hearings-level backlog. GAO was subsequently asked by Congress to 
evaluate this plan and issued a report in September 2009 (GAO-09-398). 

This testimony discusses SSA’s backlog reduction plan and the 
challenges the agency faces in managing its overall claims workload. 
It draws primarily from GAO’s September 2009 report as well as from 
SSA’s Fiscal Year 2009 Performance and Accountability Report, its 
Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2011 and Revised Final 
Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2010, its fiscal year 2011 budget 
request documents, and recent reports issued by SSA’s Office of the 
Inspector General (OIG). 

What GAO Found: 

In September 2009, GAO reported that SSA’s backlog reduction plan 
should help reduce the hearings backlog, but that SSA’s ability to 
eliminate it by the agency’s target date of 2013 would require SSA to 
achieve all of its key workforce and performance goals. GAO found that 
these goals set higher levels of performance than the agency has ever 
experienced. GAO also found that SSA’s 2007 Plan did not include 
performance goals and measures or cost estimates for many initiatives. 
Finally, GAO reported that the 2007 Plan, which could pose some risks 
to the quality of hearings decisions and to other operations, lacked 
an appropriate risk assessment with contingency plans. GAO recommended 
that SSA develop additional performance goals and measures and cost 
estimates for the initiatives it considered most critical, conduct 
analyses of risks associated with the Plan’s implementation, and 
identify strategies to address them. In response, SSA noted that it 
was expanding its risk analysis capabilities. The agency also agreed 
to examine the Plan’s potential impact on other SSA operations. 
However, SSA did not believe additional performance goals and measures 
and cost estimates were necessary since the agency was tracking plan 
initiatives to ensure that they were on schedule and had developed 
total cost estimates as part of its budget process. 

Since September 2009, SSA has reported progress toward eliminating its 
hearings-level backlog—defined as reducing the number of pending cases 
to SSA’s target of 466,000. In March 2010, SSA reported that pending 
cases were down to 697,437 from 760,000 in fiscal year 2008. SSA also 
reported additional backlog reduction strategies in its 2010 and 2011 
annual performance documents. One strategy is to relieve pressure on 
the hearing offices by reinstituting the Disability Determination 
Services (DDS) reconsideration process in 10 states where it had 
previously been eliminated as a pilot project. SSA also announced that 
it will open two new centralized operations to help the hearing 
offices with administrative tasks. Meanwhile, SSA also reported in its 
2011 annual performance plan that it will develop strategies to deal 
with potential backlogs at the initial claims level. At the end of 
fiscal year 2009, about 780,000 initial claims were pending at state 
DDS offices and the agency projects that number will exceed 1 million 
by the end of fiscal year 2010. In its 2011 annual performance plan, 
SSA outlined several other remedies, including hiring, increasing 
overtime, and simplifying policies. Finally, SSA requested additional 
funds to help with its continuing disability reviews, which were 
reported by SSA’s OIG to be backlogged at 1.5 million cases at the end 
of fiscal year 2009. GAO has yet to assess the agency’s new 
strategies, but GAO’s prior work suggests that changes to any one 
operation in the disability program can affect work flow in unexpected 
ways at other stages. Therefore, given its many growing pressure 
points, effective management of the disability claims process will 
require comprehensive and integrated planning. 

View [hyperlink,] or key 
components. For more information, contact Daniel Bertoni at (202) 512-
7215 or 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairmen and Members of the Subcommittees: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Social Security 
Administration's (SSA) efforts to reduce its disability claims 
backlogs. Each year, millions of Americans who believe they can no 
longer work because of severe physical or mental impairments apply for 
cash benefits through SSA's two disability programs--Disability 
Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Historically, SSA has 
experienced large numbers of cases that are pending at one or more of 
the four levels of its disability claims process. When the number of 
cases exceeds what the agency considers optimal for managing workflow, 
they are recognized as a "backlog." Over the years, such backlogs have 
resulted in long waits for claimants to learn whether they qualify to 
obtain disability benefits. In recent years, SSA's disability claim 
workloads have been most problematic at the hearings level, the step 
at which claimants whose requests for benefits have been denied by 
Disability Determination Services (DDS) are awaiting a hearing before 
an administrative law judge (ALJ). Backlogged claims at the hearings 
level rose from 12,000 cases in 1999 to nearly 295,000 cases at the 
close of fiscal year 2008. In that year, claimants waited, on average, 
almost a year and a half after they requested a hearing to receive a 
decision on their claim. 

Today, I will discuss (1) SSA's efforts to eliminate its hearings-
level backlog and (2) ongoing challenges SSA faces with its disability 
claims workloads. My statement draws primarily from our September 2009 
report assessing SSA's current plan for eliminating the hearings-level 
backlog by fiscal year 2013 and preventing its recurrence.[Footnote 1] 
We conducted the work for our September 2009 report between May 2008 
and September 2009 in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform 
the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. For this testimony we also reviewed prior GAO reports, 
SSA's Fiscal Year 2009 Performance and Accountability Report, its 
Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2011 and Revised Final 
Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2010, its fiscal year 2011 budget 
request documents, and recent SSA Office of the Inspector General 
(OIG) reports. 


Under the Social Security Act, SSA administers both the Disability 
Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs.[Footnote 2] 
Disability Insurance replaces a portion of income related to prior 
earnings levels for those with a Social Security work record, while 
the Supplemental Security Income program provides cash benefits to the 
elderly and individuals with disabilities who have limited or no work 
history as well as limited income and resources.[Footnote 3] 

The process to obtain SSA disability benefits can involve up to four 
steps--two steps at the state level--(1) an initial determination and 
(2) an opportunity for reconsideration of this determination--and two 
steps for appeal at the federal level--(3) the SSA hearing office and 
(4) the Appeals Council, which is SSA's final administrative level of 
appeal. Claimants must file any further action in federal court. 
Claims at all levels for which the claimant is determined to be 
eligible for Supplemental Security Income payments or entitled to 
Disability Insurance benefits, also called favorable claims, are 
forwarded to SSA field offices for payment. (See figure 1.) 

Figure 1: SSA's Claims Disability Process: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

Claimant contacts SSA field office: 
* SSA field office staff determine if claimant meets non-medical 
eligibility requirements; 
* If requirements are met, application is forwarded to state DDS 
initial claims level. 

Initial determination: 
* State DDS staff gather, develop, and review medical and vocational 
* State DDS examiners and doctors make a disability determination 
based on medical and vocational evidence; 
If Eligible: see below; 
If denied: Claimant has 60 days to request a reconsideration. 

* Different group of state DDS staff reexamine prior and new evidence; 
* Different state DDS examiners and doctors perform the review; If 
Eligible: see below; 
If denied: Claimant has 60 days to request a hearing before an ALJ. 

Hearings level: 
* Hearing office staff collect any additional evidence and prepare, or 
pull, the claim for ALJ review; 
* ALJs review the claim and may conduct a hearing by videoconference 
or in person; 
* ALJs render a new decision, which is written by ALJs or decision 
writers, such as attorneys and paralegals; 
If Eligible: see below; 
If denied: Claimant has 60 days to request an Appeals Council review. 

Appeals Council: 
* Administrative appeals judges decide whether to review the claim and 
new evidence; 
* If claim is reviewed, administrative appeals judges decide whether 
to issue a decision or return claim to ALJ to issue a new decision; 
If Eligible: see below. 

Eligible claim is processed and paid: 
* SSA field office staff process Supplemental Security Income eligible 
claims, as well as claims eligible for both Supplemental Security 
Income and Disability Insurance, and forward them to program service 
centers for payment; 
* Program service center staff process Disability Insurance eligible 
claims and make payments for all claims. 

Sources: GAO analysis of SSA data; images, Art Explosion. 

[A] In 1999, SSA eliminated the reconsideration step in 10 states 
(Alabama, Alaska, the Los Angeles area of California, Colorado, 
Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, and 
Pennsylvania) as part of the Prototype Initiative. In these states, 
claimants who want to appeal their initial DDS determination must 
appeal for review before an ALJ. 

[End of figure] 

Individuals who are awarded disability benefits must periodically 
undergo continuing disability reviews (CDR) to determine whether they 
remain medically eligible for benefits. SSA generally determines when 
beneficiaries will undergo such reviews--called medical CDRs--based on 
their potential for medical improvement.[Footnote 4] The law generally 
requires that these CDRs be performed at least once every 3 years. 
[Footnote 5] 

Over the years, SSA has faced disability claims processing challenges 
and has taken actions to address them. In a prior report on SSA 
disability claims, we noted that while backlogs have accumulated at 
different levels of the claims process from fiscal years 1997 to 2006, 
they had occurred most often at the hearings level.[Footnote 6] Also 
in prior reports, we described backlogged claims, lengthy processing 
times, and other processing challenges attributable, in part, to a 
range of factors: significant increases in disability applications, 
substantial turnover and losses in personnel throughout the disability 
process, budget constraints, and SSA management weaknesses, as 
evidenced by poor planning and implementation of prior initiatives 
intended to remedy disability backlogs. Over the years, SSA has taken 
a number of backlog reduction actions, including those at the hearings 
level. In the past, however, these actions have yielded mixed results. 
Most recently, SSA issued a multi-initiative "Plan" in May 2007 to 
eliminate the backlog at the hearings level by 2013. In May 2009, SSA 
issued a draft update to this plan, known as the Appomattox Plan. 

SSA's Backlog Reduction Plan Has Helped to Reduce the Hearings Backlog 
but Poses Some Risks to Hearings and Other Operations: 

In September 2009, we reported that while SSA's backlog reduction plan 
should help to eliminate the hearings-level backlog by 2013, its 
success would depend largely on the agency's ability to achieve its 
key workforce and performance goals.[Footnote 7] To eliminate the 
hearings-level backlog, SSA's goal is to reduce the number of claims 
pending from more than 760,000 in fiscal year 2008 to 466,000 by the 
end of fiscal year 2013. We noted in our report that to substantially 
achieve this goal, SSA's assumptions at that time regarding ALJ 
productivity, hiring, and availability would need to be fully 
realized. We also noted, however, that these assumptions projected 
higher levels of performance than the agency had historically or even 
recently experienced as of April 2009. If SSA did not achieve its ALJ 
productivity goals of approximately 570 dispositions annually per ALJ, 
we estimated that the agency's chances of eliminating its backlog by 
2013 would be reduced by more than half, even if the agency met its 
goals for ALJ hiring and availability. 

Meanwhile, we also found that while SSA's May 2007 Plan included 
important elements of sound planning,[Footnote 8] it did not provide 
some key management information that could facilitate effective plan 
management. The Plan contained 38 initiatives aimed at (1) allowing 
claims to be decided more quickly and accurately, (2) improving 
hearing office procedures, (3) increasing adjudicatory capacity, and 
(4) increasing efficiency through automation and improved business 
processes.[Footnote 9] However, the Plan did not include performance 
goals and measures for about half of the initiatives and cost 
estimates for many. Such planning elements would allow SSA to evaluate 
the initiatives' progress and determine resource allocations and 
return on investment. 

Therefore, we recommended that SSA develop performance goals and 
measures for initiatives that did not have them, and that it also 
develop cost estimates for plan initiatives that the agency considered 
critical to eliminating the hearings-level backlog. SSA disagreed that 
it should develop additional performance goals and measures beyond 
those it had already developed, noting instead that the agency was 
tracking milestones to ensure that all initiatives were on schedule 
for implementation. SSA also disagreed that it should develop cost 
estimates, noting that it had conducted and incorporated into its 
fiscal years 2009 and 2010 budgets, a full evaluation of the costs 
associated with implementing all major aspects of the Plan. 
Nevertheless, we continue to believe that it is important to establish 
performance goals and measures and cost estimates for individual 
initiatives to determine whether each is accomplishing what is 
expected and to determine the return on investment. 

Finally, we found that the Plan could have unintended effects on 
hearings-level performance and on the workloads of other SSA offices. 
For example, we noted that the Plan's emphasis on rapidly increasing 
ALJ productivity could affect the workloads of the offices that 
process claim payments as well as the accuracy and quality of ALJ 
decisions themselves, which, if appealed, could then increase 
workloads for the offices that must review them. In fiscal year 2009, 
SSA's goal was for ALJs to produce an average of 570 decisions 
annually. In addition, we cautioned that SSA's focus on implementing 
its hearings-level backlog reduction plan could potentially divert 
resources from other critical processes, particularly its CDR work--
the agency's key activity for maintaining program integrity by 
ensuring that only those eligible continue to receive benefits. We 
also noted that the Plan did not identify risks involved in its 
implementation or any strategies to address them, although SSA 
officials stated that they had discussed risk management prior to Plan 
implementation. Therefore, we recommended that SSA move forward to 
formally assess the risks involved in the Plan's implementation, 
including those that would hinder the Plan's success and those that 
could cause adverse effects or trade-offs related to hearings-level 
performance and other SSA operations. In commenting on our report, SSA 
agreed with our recommendation and stated that the agency is 
developing a system that will aid in performing risk analyses. SSA 
also agreed that it needed to take a look at how an estimated 20 
percent increase in ALJ productivity would affect other SSA 
operations.[Footnote 10] 

SSA Has Reported Progress in Reducing Its Backlog but Faces Additional 

SSA Has Reported Progress in Reducing Its Backlog and Has Introduced 
Additional Backlog Reduction Strategies: 

Since we issued our September 2009 report, SSA has reported progress 
toward reducing its hearings-level backlog. In November 2009, SSA 
released its Fiscal Year 2009 Performance and Accountability Report, 
which noted that the agency had hired almost 150 ALJs--bringing the 
total number on board as of the end of fiscal year 2009 to 1,238. We 
previously reported that SSA's goal was to hire enough ALJs to reach a 
cadre of about 1,450 in fiscal year 2011. According to the Fiscal Year 
2009 Performance and Accountability Report, SSA's goal is now to have 
1,500 ALJs on board by early 2012. SSA also hired over 850 support 
staff in fiscal year 2009, and plans to hire additional support staff 
going forward to maintain a national ratio of at least 4.5 support 
staff to each ALJ. 

In a March 2010 news release, SSA announced that it had reduced the 
number of pending hearings-level cases to 697,437--the lowest number 
since June 2005. As we have previously noted, the number of pending 
claims was over 760,000 in fiscal 2008, and SSA's target for 2013 is a 
reduction to 466,000 claims. 

Also, since we issued our report in September 2009, SSA has outlined 
at least two new strategies to achieve its backlog reduction target. 
In February 2010, SSA issued its Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal 
Year 2011 and Revised Final Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2010, 
[Footnote 11] in which it identifies several new initiatives to help 
eliminate the hearings-level backlog. One new strategy is to restore 
the reconsideration step at DDS offices in the 10 states where--as a 
pilot project--it had been eliminated in fiscal year 2000 to speed 
cases through those offices. In essence, claimants in these states who 
received an initial DDS denial can appeal directly to an ALJ at the 
hearings level, by passing any further administrative reviews of their 
claim at DDS offices. SSA plans to reverse that change first in the 
Michigan DDS, which, according to SSA, has one of the worst hearings- 
level backlogs in the nation. The underlying strategy is to 
reinstitute the reconsideration process and eliminate unnecessary 
hearings. While GAO has yet to assess this or other new SSA 
strategies, it should be noted that our prior work found that the 
processing of reconsideration claims could be subject to delay at 
times when the initial claims workload has increased.[Footnote 12] For 
example, a DDS official in one region we visited told us that several 
DDS offices had either slowed or temporarily stopped conducting 
reconsideration reviews to concentrate on reviewing initial claims. 
Should DDS workloads increase significantly in the future, pending 
claims at the reconsideration level could also increase. 

Another new strategy announced in SSA's annual performance plan is to 
open two centralized units that would assist the hearing offices with 
various tasks, such as pulling files and writing decisions. SSA also 
reported that it plans to open 16 new hearing offices and expand 2 
existing hearing offices in fiscal year 2010. According to SSA, the 
number and location of new hearing offices it can open in fiscal year 
2011 will be driven by the level of funding the agency receives. 

In its 2011 annual performance plan, SSA also reported that it will 
continue a number of its original 2007 plan initiatives, including 
those that would expand its adjudicatory capacity. Among these is the 
plan to use senior attorney adjudicators to issue fully favorable 
decisions on certain types of claims without a hearing before an ALJ. 
In fiscal year 2009, senior attorney adjudicators decided over 36,000 
cases. The agency now plans to increase that number and implement a 
virtual screening unit to help identify claims that are good 
candidates for this program. Regarding the agency's informal remand 
initiative, on the other hand, it is unclear to us whether the agency 
plans to continue this initiative beyond 2010. Under the initiative, 
claims that were previously denied by DDS offices are screened by 
hearing offices for characteristics that make them good candidates for 
a favorable determination and then returned to DDS offices where staff 
take a second look at them--as an intervention to reduce the hearings-
level caseload. DDS offices are expected to conduct these reviews 
outside of regular work hours, using overtime funds that are set aside 
especially for this purpose. In fiscal 2009, the informal remand 
initiative resulted in almost 15,000 favorable determinations. 

Meanwhile, SSA has reported discontinuing its e-pulling initiative, a 
method of automating file assembly to prepare claims for ALJ review, 
as of August 2009, given a determination by SSA's OIG that it should 
be fully assessed in terms of its productivity before it is expanded 
to additional hearing offices.[Footnote 13] 

SSA Is Confronted with Growing Numbers of Initial Disability Claims: 

While SSA has achieved some success in reducing its hearings-level 
backlog, it has experienced significant increases in initial 
disability claims. As of the end of fiscal year 2009, approximately 
780,000 initial claims were pending at state DDS offices; 40 percent 
more than in fiscal year 2007, according to SSA's 2011 annual 
performance plan. SSA expects that the number of claims pending will 
exceed 1 million by the end of fiscal year 2010. Agency officials have 
attributed this increase to, among other things, a growth in recent 
applications and to state personnel furloughs, which affected DDS 
worker productivity.[Footnote 14] In its Fiscal Year 2009 Performance 
and Accountability Report, SSA reported that about a dozen states had 
furloughed federally funded state workers who make disability 
decisions for SSA. The agency also estimated that initial claims will 
continue to increase and remain at historically high levels for the 
next several years. 

Therefore, in its 2011 annual performance plan, SSA reported that 
while it continues to consider the hearings backlog to be its top 
priority, it is also developing strategies to reduce the number of 
initial claims that are pending. These strategies are outlined as (1) 
working with states to avoid hiring freezes and furloughs, (2) hiring 
additional DDS employees, (3) increasing DDS overtime to provide 
maximum flexibility to address increasing workloads, (4) simplifying 
policies to make adjudicating claims easier, and (5) adding personnel 
to staff both federal and state units that handle initial disability 
claims for areas of the country that have been hit particularly hard. 
Meanwhile, according to SSA's Fiscal Year 2009 Performance and 
Accountability Report, the agency has already hired 2,600 new DDS 
employees. In April testimony of this year, the SSA Commissioner also 
reported that the agency plans to hire about 1,400 additional DDS 
employees using fiscal year 2010 funds. It is our understanding that 
the agency expects to provide more information in the future on its 
new strategies for handling this impending workload. 

SSA Faces a Backlog of CDRs: 

SSA has also experienced significant increases in its medical CDR 
workload. As we have previously reported, these reviews are SSA's key 
means of ensuring that only those who are eligible continue to receive 
benefits. CDRs have the potential to yield hundreds of millions of 
dollars in savings by removing program participants who no longer meet 
disability eligibility requirements. SSA has reported that although it 
performed nearly 40,000 more CDRs in fiscal year 2008 than in fiscal 
year 2007 (when it conducted 210,000), the overall number of CDRs 
conducted annually had decreased by approximately 65 percent between 
fiscal years 2004 and 2008. As a result, the number of pending CDRs 
has increased. SSA's OIG reported in March 2010 that at the end of 
fiscal year 2009, SSA had a backlog of almost 1.5 million CDRs. 
[Footnote 15] Even with the increase in performance that SSA expects 
to achieve in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, the OIG estimated a CDR 
pending workload of over 1.5 million through 2011. As a result, SSA 
could potentially pay millions of dollars in benefit payments to 
individuals who are no longer eligible. 

In its fiscal year 2011 budget, SSA requested $796 million to conduct 
program integrity activities that include CDRs. While increased 
funding should help, we noted in the past that CDRs may be delayed or 
deferred when DDS offices have to deal with increasing numbers of 
initial claims.[Footnote 16] For example, in fiscal year 2009, SSA 
reported that it had scaled back the number of CDRs conducted due, 
among other things, to increases in other competing workloads. 

Concluding Remarks: 

Over the years, the disability claims workload has been difficult to 
manage for a number of reasons, including budget constraints and 
staffing challenges. SSA's backlog reduction plan, with its many 
initiatives to remedy the severe backlog at the hearings level, may 
represent one of the agency's most ambitious efforts to date to tackle 
this difficult workflow. Since the plan was launched, the agency has, 
indeed, made a significant dent in the backlog of cases. It remains to 
be seen, of course, whether SSA can continue to make enough progress 
to reduce the number of pending cases to acceptable levels by 2013. 

The agency has not lacked for new strategies to deal with its 
backlogs. However, we have noted that it is important that these 
strategies should rest on a foundation of thorough and comprehensive 
planning, and that they include performance goals and measures, and 
analyses of the costs and risks to the system as a whole. Urgency can 
dictate a pattern of attacking workloads at one or another phase, only 
to be confronted with a backflow elsewhere in the pipeline. For 
example, the agency's latest announcement for stemming the flow of 
cases to the hearings level by reinstituting reconsiderations in DDS 
offices in 10 states could create or increase backlogs at these 

DDS offices are responsible for several workloads, including 
conducting CDRs, which will increase, according to SSA's fiscal year 
2011 budget request. In addition, some DDS offices also participate in 
SSA's informal remand initiative. Such multiple workloads are likely 
to grow larger with increases in initial claims receipts and pose 
significant challenges, not only for the 10 states where 
reconsiderations will start up again, but for other DDS offices as 
well. In fact, given the current trajectory in DDS workloads, SSA's 
most significant backlogs could shift from the hearings level to DDS 
offices, where large numbers of both initial and reconsideration 
pending claims could accumulate. 

Certainly it is good news--as noted in the agency's 2011 annual 
performance plan--that SSA will begin to focus on reducing the number 
of initial claims that are pending in DDS offices. The new five-part 
strategy cited for doing so has yet to be fully detailed. At this 
point, however, successful management of SSA's disability workloads 
will require an integrated and comprehensive plan that considers the 
entire disability process as well as how actions at each stage of the 
process affect other offices. 

Mr. Chairmen, this concludes my prepared statement. I will be pleased 
to answer any questions that you or other Members of the Subcommittees 
may have at this time. 

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For further information, please contact Daniel Bertoni at (202) 512- 
7215 or Contact points for our Offices of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this testimony. Also contributing to this statement were 
Shelia Drake, Julianne Hartmann Cutts, and Susan Bernstein. Advisors 
included Barbara Bovbjerg, Jessica Gray, Mehrzad Nadji, Nhi Nguyen, 
and Walter Vance. Craig Winslow provided legal advice. 

[End of section] 

Related GAO Products: 

Social Security Disability: Additional Performance Measures and Better 
Cost Estimates Could Help Improve SSA's Efforts to Eliminate Its 
Hearings Backlog. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington, D.C.: September 9, 2009. 

Social Security Administration: Further Actions Needed to Address 
Disability Claims and Service Delivery Challenges. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: March 24, 

High-Risk Series: An Update. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: January 22, 

Social Security Administration: Service Delivery Plan Needed to 
Address Baby Boom Retirement Challenges. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: January 9, 

Social Security Administration Field Offices: Reduced Workforce Faces 
Challenges as Baby Boomers Retire. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: May 8, 

Social Security Disability: Better Planning, Management, and 
Evaluation Could Help Address Backlogs. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: December 7, 

[End of section] 


[1] GAO, Social Security Administration: Additional Performance 
Measures and Better Cost Estimates Could Help Improve SSA's Efforts to 
Eliminate Its Hearings Backlog, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 9, 

[2] Throughout this report, when we refer to SSA disability claims, we 
are referring to claims filed under the Disability Insurance and 
Supplemental Security Income programs. 

[3] Eligibility for Supplemental Security Income is restricted to 
individuals who have countable resources, determined monthly, that do 
not exceed $2,000 ($3,000 for a couple) as well as limited income 
based on certain criteria. 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a)(3). 

[4] 20 C.F.R. § 416.990 (2009). In addition, SSA field offices and 
program service centers conduct other CDRs--called work CDRs--which 
are reviews of beneficiaries' earnings and work activities to 
determine whether they remain financially eligible to receive 
benefits. SSA is also generally required to conduct CDRs at least once 
every 3 years for children receiving Supplemental Security Income 
benefits and has established criteria for others receiving these 

[5] 42 U.S.C. § 421(i)(1). 

[6] GAO, Social Security Disability: Better Planning, Management, and 
Evaluation Could Help Address Backlog, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 7, 

[7] We also considered SSA's draft Appomattox Plan. 

[8] To determine the extent to which SSA's Plan included components of 
sound planning, we assessed the Plan against criteria from previous 
GAO reports that identified desirable characteristics of an effective, 
results-oriented plan. See GAO, Combating Terrorism: Evaluation of 
Selected Characteristics in National Strategies Related to Terrorism, 
[hyperlink,] (Washington, 
D.C.: Feb. 3, 2004); and Executive Guide: Effectively Implementing the 
Government Performance and Results Act, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: June 

[9] While we listed 38 initiatives from SSA's backlog reduction plan 
in our report, SSA subsequently combined four initiatives and added 
one, resulting in a total of 35 initiatives. 

[10] SSA's success in eliminating the hearings-level backlog by fiscal 
year 2013 is heavily dependent on increasing ALJ productivity about 20 
percent in fiscal years 2010 through 2013 over fiscal year 2008 levels. 

[11] Throughout this report we refer to SSA's Annual Performance Plan 
for Fiscal Year 2011 and Revised Final Performance Plan for Fiscal 
Year 2010 as SSA's annual performance plan. 

[12] [hyperlink,]. 

[13] This decision and the OIG's determination were reported in SSA's 
Fiscal Year 2009 Performance and Accountability Report. 

[14] New applications are expected to reach 3.3 million in fiscal year 

[15] Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, 
Full Medical Continuing Disability Reviews: Evaluation Report, A-07-09-
29147 (Mar. 30, 2010). According to the OIG's report, SSA defines this 
"backlog" as CDRs due and selectable that are not able to be released 
for processing or are in process, but resources are not sufficient to 
complete them in a timely fashion. 

[16] GAO, Social Security Administration: Service Delivery Plan Needed 
to Address Baby Boom Retirement Challenges, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 9, 

[End of section] 

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