House bill could negatively affect disability benefit applicants

U.S. Citizens who have applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may be dismayed to hear that the Social Security Administration (SSA) warned that if a U.S. House of Representative’s appropriations bill is passed, the agency will be facing the possibility that it may have to put its workers on a two-week furlough. Moreover, may close its offices during that timeframe and implement a hiring freeze, resulting in further wait times for those applying for SSD benefits.

 

However, it not as if the agency is not already facing financial struggles. Going back to 2010, the number of beneficiaries increased by 12 percent, while the agency’s operating budget went down by 10 percent. President Obama has issued a proposal that would provide the SSA with an administrative budget for fiscal year 2017 of $11.1 billion. But, the House Republican’s proposal constitutes $772 million less than Obama’s budget and would bring the SSA’s spending down by $582 million. As it currently stands, the agency’s administrative budget is funded independently from the benefits trust fund.

 

Currently, over 1.1 million individuals are in the appeals process and waiting a hearing to determine whether they are eligible for SSD benefits. In fact, this means that the average wait for an individual to obtain a decision on whether they qualify for SSD benefits via an appeals hearing is over 500 days. In addition, since 2010, the agency has shut down 500 mobile offices and over 60 field offices.

 

Some House Representatives are opposed to the proposed House bill, claiming it is a “mind-boggling” disaster that will ultimately harm Americans. According to the American Federation of Government Employees SSA Council, the proposed House bill is “irresponsible” and could even lead to the privatization of the program.

 

It remains to be seen what progress this bill will see through the legislative process. In the meantime, the current laws regarding the SSA’s budget still stands. This still means, though, that many disability benefit applicants are stuck in the appeals process. These individuals, and any individuals applying for benefits for the first time, may want to work with an attorney to help them navigate what can sometimes be the confusing process of obtaining SSD benefits.

Source: The Washington Post, “Closed Social Security offices, furloughed staff under GOP cuts, agency warns,” Joe Davidson, Aug. 9, 2016