Social Security Disability Negatively Affected by State Furloughs

November 11,2014
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In a disturbing new trend, governors throughout the country have been initiating furlough programs forcing state employees to take days off from their jobs, in an effort to reduce costs by cutting back on spending at the state level.  These furloughs directly affect Social Security Disability claims adjudicators and processors, thereby directly impacting the speed with which disability claims are processed.

Although people who work for state Disability Determination Services are employed by that individual state and not by the Federal government, the Federal Government reimburses the states those workers’ full salaries and the cost of benefits provided to them.  Incredibly, Commissioner of Social Security Michael Astrue noted in an interview with The Federal Times published on April 8, 2009 (“State Furloughs Displace SSA Employees, Slow Claims Processing,” by Rebecca Neal) that while representatives from the states acknowledge that the DDS workers aren’t costing the states anything, and clearly recognize the ramifications that furloughing this group of state workers has on the disability claims backlog and thus on the welfare of their citizens, they have nevertheless decided not to exempt DDS workers from the furlough “out of a sense of fairness to other state employees.”

It’s incredibly counter intuitive.  In an effort to cut costs, state governments are furloughing employees paid for by the Federal Government.  The result is that the backlog in Disability cases increases, the furloughed employees don’t get paid and thus can’t contribute to the state economy, and the states lose the money that they would otherwise receive to pay the DDS workers, thereby also losing the ability to tax those workers’ salaries!

As Commissioner Astrue puts it, “it’s clearly a triumph of spin over compassion.”

Gabe Hermann