The Social Security Administration's (SSA) Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs provided around $128 billion to about 12.8 million persons with disabilities and their families in fiscal year 2005. Claimants who are denied benefits by SSA may appeal to federal courts. Through current initiatives, SSA is attempting to reduce the number of cases appealed to courts and remanded back to SSA for further review. In addition, there have been long-standing concerns about how SSA responds to court decisions that conflict with its policies. GAO was asked to examine: (1) trends over the past decade in the number of appeals reviewed by the courts and their decisions, (2) reasons for court remands and factors contributing to them, and (3) SSA's process for responding to court decisions that conflict with agency policy. GAO reviewed SSA data and documents on court decisions, remands and SSA's processes and interviewed agency officials and stakeholders on data trends, reasons for remands, and SSA processes.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Social Security Administration||1. To ensure the agency has accurate and well-managed information to use in identifying corrective actions for reducing remands, the Commissioner of SSA should take steps to ensure the reliability of data on reasons for remands.|
|Social Security Administration||2. To ensure the agency has accurate and well-managed information to use in identifying corrective actions for reducing remands, the Commissioner of SSA should coordinate agency data collection on remands and ascertain how best to use this information to reduce the proportion of cases remanded by federal courts.|