SSA oversees and fully funds primarily state-operated DDSs that determine whether applicants are eligible for disability benefits. The disability examiners employed by the DDSs play a key role in determining benefit eligibility. This report examines (1) the challenges the DDSs face today in retaining and recruiting examiners and enhancing their expertise; (2) the extent to which the DDSs engage in workforce planning and encounter obstacles in doing so; and (3) the extent to which SSA is addressing present and future human capital challenges in the DDSs.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Social Security Administration||1. The Commissioner of SSA should develop a nationwide strategic workforce plan that addresses present and future human capital challenges in the DDSs. This plan should enable SSA to identify the key actions needed to deal with immediate DDS problems with recruiting and hiring, training, retention, and succession planning in support of SSA's strategic plan. It should additionally enable SSA to anticipate and plan for the future workforce that will be needed as SSA modernizes and fundamentally transforms its approach to disability decision-making. To develop and implement this comprehensive workforce plan, SSA should work in partnership with the DDSs and their parent agencies. As part of the planning process, SSA should (a) identify a small number of key DDS indicators of human capital performance, including recruiting and hiring measures, level of stress in the workplace, training needs, and turnover. SSA should establish standards for acceptable performance on these indicators, routinely collect and analyze the data to identify trends, and use this information to guide decisions regarding future DDS workforce needs and the strategies to meet them; (b) provide necessary tools and technical assistance to the DDSs to enable them to conduct long-term workforce planning. SSA should ensure that SSA staff responsible for providing this assistance are well trained in the tenets of workforce planning; (c) require each DDS to develop its own long-term workforce plan that is linked to the nationwide long-term DDS workforce plan. SSA should work in partnership with the DDSs and their parent agencies to develop these plans; (d) establish an ongoing program of outreach from SSA's leadership to state governors and national associations of state government officials to discuss the benefits and challenges of the federal-state relationship and encourage them to address human capital challenges identified by DDS directors, such as salary limits and hiring freezes; and (e) link performance expectations of appropriate SSA executives to their efforts in accomplishing goals and objectives of the workforce plan.|
|Social Security Administration||2. The Commissioner of SSA should issue regulations that establish uniform minimum qualifications for new disability examiners. The minimum qualifications should be based on an analysis of the position that identifies the examiner's responsibilities and the minimum knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to adequately perform them. The minimum qualifications for the examiner's position should take into account any changes in the complexity of the tasks required for this position stemming from the Commissioner's new long-term strategy.|
|Social Security Administration||3. The Commissioner of SSA should work with DDSs to close the gaps between current examiner skills and required job skills. To do so, SSA should work with the DDSs to (a) analyze examiner training needs, using as a foundation the analysis of job responsibilities and related minimum knowledge, skills, and competencies recommended above; (b) improve training content and delivery to meet these needs, basing such efforts on analyses of training content and appropriateness of training delivery methods; and (c) develop performance measures to track effectiveness of these improvements to training.|