A disturbing trend has emerged at local Social Security offices that is hurting everyone applying for Social Security Disability and SSI benefits. Many local offices have little more than half the staff they used to, as budget cuts over the past decade have made it impossible to replace the many experienced and knowledgeable employees that have either retired or moved on in their careers.
The result is that even with electronic filing, cases are often not being sent to the State Agency in a timely manner to start the medical evaluation that is the heart of the process. Although at our own firm we file our initial applications electronically, there are still actions that the local staffers must take to process the claim. More and more, those are not being done or are greatly delayed, despite their routine nature.
Additionally, we are finding that due to inexperience and limited training, the SSA staffers often fail to complete the routine clerical process, leading to difficulties for the claimants at the end, after their claims have been approved and they are expecting payment.
Like any other process, doing it right at the beginning is much quicker and simpler than having to correct mistakes as a case goes on. The more time our staff spends trying to correct mistakes made by the Social Security Administration, the less time we have to actually help claimant’s win cases.
It is the same on the other end of the phone calls we have to make: if the SSA personnel were acting quickly and efficiently, they would be able to help more people. We employ a number of former long-time SSA employees and I value their opinions and observations greatly in this area. They tell me the problems are due to the Social Security Administration’s lack of manpower and the employees’ lack of training and experience.
It is not Social Security’s fault that their budget requests were cut year after year after year. But the result is an agency that, at the local level, is simply incapable of doing what once was routine when it comes to handling Disability and SSI claims.