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Social Security Administration Speeds Up Approval Of Social Security Disability Claims

The Social Security Administration has started making progress in reducing the time for review and approval of claims for Social Security Disability benefits.

social security my accountThree years ago, the average national delay between filing a Social Security Disability (SSD) claim and getting a decision was about 17 months. Meanwhile, the average delay in Michigan had risen to over 2 years.

Needless to say, these waiting times were far too long for anyone applying for federal benefits, particularly those disabled from work due to serious health problems or injuries. Many citizens with pending SSD claims were left struggling to survive and had to make impossible choices between paying for food, housing, or medical care.

To rectify this tragic situation, the Social Security Administration (SSA) launched an all-out national effort to reduce the backlog.

This effort included the following initiatives:

Increased Use of Computer Technology - SSA installed new computer hardware and software to enable agency personnel to review SSD claims in a more timely and accurate manner.

Online SSD Applications and Medical Provider Forms - Individuals seeking disability now can complete application forms online. SSA also is adding online forms so that a medical care provider can submit documentation of a patient's diagnosis and treatment over the internet.

Video Conferencing for Appeal Hearings - To increase the productivity of hearing officers, SSA installed video conferencing equipment at many hearing locations. This allows administrative law judges to conduct hearings more quickly, and focus on the "oldest" cases, even if the SSD claimants live in other parts of the country.

Military Service Casualty Cases - SSA is giving top priority to SSD claims filed by wounded members of the military service and their families. To qualify for this program, the disabling condition must have begun on or after October 1, 2001, while on active duty.

Compassionate Allowances -- SSA determined that certain extremely severe conditions are likely to be disabling and is expediting approval of claims filed by people with these conditions.

Additional Front-Line Staff - Using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, SSA hired 2,000 more staff for front-line claims processing. These new employees include more personnel for administrative hearings, disability determinations, local field offices, telephone services, and other functions directly connected to serving SSD claimants.

As a result of these initiatives, the Social Security Administration already reduced the waiting time for Michigan Social Security Disability benefit recipients by 25%, to about 18 months. The head of the agency, SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue, has publicly committed to continue backlog reduction efforts and further streamline claims processing, to bring the average national review period for Social Security Disability claims down to 9 months by 2013. It is imperative that SSA continue and enhance its efforts to speed up review of SSD claims.

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