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Debt deal will allow SSA to conduct more disability reviews

Under the highly debated debt ceiling and deficit-reduction deal, which was signed into law by President Obama earlier this week, there will be new strict spending caps enforced for government spending across the board. However, the deal contained a select few exceptions to the spending limits, one of which will give the Social Security Administration greater means to conduct disability reviews on current beneficiaries.

According to Social Security officials, the increase in applications in recent years due to the recession and an aging population has stretched the agency's means, forcing them to place disability reviews on the backburner. For example, there were only 200,000 reviews in fiscal year 2007, compared to 850,000 in 2002. Currently, there is a review backlog of approximately 1.4 million.

Disability reviews are conducted for Social Security Disability as well as Supplemental Security Income. For SSD, recipients under review can be asked to present medical records or even to be examined by a doctor. For SSI, agency officials look at recipients' income, among other things, to ensure that they still qualify for the SSI benefits they were originally awarded. The agency does not specify how it chooses recipients for review.

Although the debt deal does not actually give more money to the SSA to conduct disability reviews, it does allow Congress to allocate funds for reviews above the spending caps imposed on many other government spending programs. The bill will allow spending on reviews to exceed the spending caps by $623 million in 2012, and that exempted spending limit will incrementally rise to $1.3 billion by 2017.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Deal Clears Path to More Disability Reviews," Damian Paletta, August 3, 2011

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