Social Security Disability:

Management Action and Program Redesign Needed to Address Long-Standing Problems

T-HEHS-95-233: Published: Aug 3, 1995. Publicly Released: Aug 3, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) management of the Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. GAO noted that: (1) problems with SSA DI and SSI management include untimely and inconsistent claim decisions, insufficient continuing disability reviews (CDR) and beneficiary rehabilitation referrals, and poor work capacity decisions; (2) management problems are partially due to the tremendous increase in disability claims in recent years and budget constraints; (3) SSA administrative law judges reverse about 75 percent of initially denied claims; (4) previous attempts to improve the decisionmaking process have focused on the appellate process, but they have been blocked by court actions or workload constraints; (5) SSA is revising its disability claim process and policies to improve decisions' timeliness and consistency; (6) proposals to reduce dependence on cash benefits include setting time limits on benefits, using private sector rehabilitation services, providing faster access to rehabilitation, and conducting more CDR; (7) SSA needs to shift its focus from beneficiaries' impairment levels to their work capacity; and (8) SSA could quickly remedy its problems with claims decisions, CDR, and rehabilitation programs, but some changes will require legislative action.

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