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Are SSA's efforts to reduce SSD backlog helping or hurting? (3)

Last week, we began an in-depth look into the new procedures implemented into the Social Security Disability review process in the federal Social Security Administration office in Baltimore. In an effort to reduce SSD application and appeal wait times and backlogs, SSA officials are now requiring doctors to take all cases they are assigned, even if they are completely unfamiliar with the applicant's disability or ailment.

In response to the criticism it has received from both SSD applicants and disability reviewers, the SSA has pointed to some startling numbers. As a result of the aging population and a stubbornly high unemployment rate, SSD applications have increased significantly. With the increase in applications has also come a huge jump in wait times. For example, the number of people with pending appeals was over 771,000 in September of this year. In 2010, there were 705,000 backlogged appeals. In 2001, there were less than 400,000.

Certainly, something needs to be done to get backlogs under control. In defense of the change in the disability review process, SSA spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that doing away with specialization was "providing the agency with a more accurate and cost-effective business practice."

"The decisions are timelier - and all would agree that is a good thing - but this does not mean we are sacrificing quality for 'speed'," he added. "It's a balance."

What do you think? If you have applied or are considering filing an application for Social Security Disability benefits, would you rather have your case heard more quickly, or wait for it to be reviewed by a doctor who specializes in your disability? Here at our Los Angeles Social Security Disability law firm, we understand the SSA's predicament, but we believe that applicants should not have to choose between a speed and accuracy when it comes to something as essential as disability benefits. Do you agree?

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Doctors Question Disability Decisions As Agency Moves To Speed Up Process," Damian Paletta, Nov. 21, 2011

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