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More ALJs needed as SSD backlog grows


Because of the complexity of the SSDI program, changes take time to percolate through the system. Congress has thought it wise to cut government programs in the last few years, through budgetary reductions. They have used mechanisms such as the sequestration to force across-the-board cuts to all government agencies.


This, however, has another cost. For Social Security Administration (SSA), it has led to fewer staff resources, including administrative law judges (ALJ). The ALJs are the individuals who hold hearings during the appeals phase of an application for SSD benefits.


Budget cuts have affected the agency. As demographic factors have created greater demand for its services, the agency has had fewer individuals to handle the increased workloads. And "decisional quality" has been emphasized, which has lowered output of the remaining ALJs.

When SSA should have been hiring more ALJs, the agency lacked the funds to deal with the increased demand. Therefore, it should surprise no one that the backlog of appeals hearings now stands at one million cases, up from 743,800 in 2007.

The agency does have a plan to hire more ALJs and other professional staff to address backlog, but there is one problem. They need Congress to adequately fund the necessary expansion.

These issues with the backlog create a strong impetus for any SSD applicant to be certain that their application is complete, accurate and that all of their medical claims are supported by documentation from their healthcare providers. This minimizes the reasons for a denial and could help your claim avoid the necessity of an appeal.

SSA has managed to reduce the backlog at other times when it grew, but given the complexity of the program and the number of applications received each year, it will take more staff to make significant reductions with the backlog. And that will require sufficient funding. For the sake of our clients, we hope it arrives in a timely fashion.

Source:, "The biggest government backlog is getting worse, watchdog says, but Social Security has a plan," Lisa Rein,   October 19, 2015

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