(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees questions the validity of SSA management claims that progress is being made on disability claims backlogs; and that efficient management practices are improving office performances. “While resources are limited and field office staffing levels have not increased in relation to additional workloads, SSA management continues to use smoke and mirrors in measuring the amount of work completed at field offices,” noted Witold Skwierczynski, president of AFGE’s Council of Field Operations Locals for the Social Security Administration. “SSA management has been manipulating the disability claims process, making it appear that offices have become much more efficient due to management improvements, when the biggest increase has been in claims that are denied on technical grounds.”
Such manipulations include processing claims for individuals who clearly are ineligible for benefits, and padding statistics by taking unnecessary actions such as reissuing Medicare cards to every client in the office whether or not they request such cards.
“These unnecessary applications – ones that we know are ineligible for benefits – continue to be taken in by SSA to get quick work credits and to improve overall average processing times. These applications are denied the same day they are filed because the claimants did not have enough work to meet basic eligibility requirements, something that is immediately apparent. By taking in these ineligible applications and denying them the same day, SSA can mark a check in the box for another completed application,” continued Skwierczynski.
According to the Agency’s 2009 Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program released in July 2010, there were 1,138,101 total disability insurance benefit claims in 1998, and 2,196,906 in 2008, nearly double from ten years ago. However, annual technical denials increased from 96,718 to 709,280 over the same period – more than a sevenfold increase.
“It’s outrageous that some SSA managers are condoning the practice of using system tricks and having employees do unnecessary work to better statistical performance. These practices adversely affect service delivery at SSA and detract from the mission of the agency to assist those in need,” concluded Skwierczynski.