The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report in April, 2014, evaluating the Social Security Administration's progress in reducing its backlog of initial claims. The findings in this report are rather disconcerting.
In 2010, SSA expected that initial pending disability claims would exceed one million. In response, SSA established a goal of achieving a pending level of 525,000 claims by 2014. By the end of 2013, SSA had only reduced the backlog to 698,000 claims. Based on SSA's most recent projections for initial claims receipts and clearances, SSA will not meet its self-set minimal goals.
In other words, SSA failed to meet its own, arguably minimal, compliance standard and now seeks to be excused for its own incompetence. SSA has stuck to its excuse that budget uncertainty makes such goals unattainable. In response, OIG recommended that SSA set a new goal for ideal initial disability claims pending level with an acceptable claims processing time and a time frame to reach this goal. SSA has agreed. (Cue golf course applause)
So, what's the problem? Lots.
SSA accepts minimal goals and then fails to attain then. Thereafter, following investigation, OIG only states that new goals need to be established and achieved. If SSA can't even attain a self-set minimal goal, how does OIG expect SSA to adhere to another, lesser goal. Worse yet, this goal will demand lesser productivity. In other words, to show success on lesser levels of performance, the only thing SSA had to do was fail on a minimal self-set performance goal. Nothing could be more pathetic than this.
So, how does SSA propose to meet its yet-to-be-set minimal production standards? It requires increased staffing in the initial processing units, particularly disability examiners and medical consultants (by three thousand new employees), improve efficiency through automation (including medical consultations via video teleconferencing----how can this be done???), expand screening tools to identify claims likely to be allowed, and refine policies and business processes to expedite case processing.
The first question to be asked is........WHY WAS THIS NOT BEING DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE?????? The "Baby Boom" generation in this country composes 25% of the population and is becoming disabled and/or retiring in record numbers. This current challenge was known for a generation before yet no advance planning was ever done. This violates the age-old adage of "Failing to plan is planning to fail." The, the same solution is given as with most governmental issues: Throw money at the problem rather than investigating the root causes of delay in the system and correcting them without increasing funding.
Congratulations OIG on another fine job at pointing out problems and producing no results.