This Federal Program is on the Verge of Implosion


The process of screening chronically ill people for disability benefits under Social Security is teetering on the brink of total collapse. People unfortunate enough to be stuck in the system already knew this but it’s been made official.

Social Security Disability program imploding

Completely separate from the retirement benefits, “disability” provides for those unable to work due to illness or injury. There are so many people waiting in line for approval that the entire system is on the verge of implosion.

Washington Post just did a huge expose on the subject.

The post focuses in on the Disability Determination Division in Austin. At the beginning of this year, it was already “at a breaking point.” Housed in a massive 2-story warehouse, they were 130,000 claims behind.

Low paid state workers without any medical training and limited reading ability sat in row upon row of cubicles. They spent their days buried under reams of medical and legal reports to decide, on their own judgment, who gets paid and who does not.

They knew in January it would take at least a year to clear the disability claim backlog, if they were lucky. As 130,000 Texans fought to hang on to financial survival, “nearly 40 percent of the examiners” walked off the job.

Driven out by crushing workloads and low wages that could not compete in the high-tech boomtown.” Just when they thought things couldn’t get any worse, they suddenly did. During “one week in September came the unthinkable: 75,000 new claims suddenly were routed to an electronic queue already buckling under 2-and-a-half years of strain during the coronavirus pandemic.

Same story everywhere

According to the Post, “the same system has collapsed in many of the other state offices where Social Security has outsourced reviews of disability claims.” That’s all because it’s a “decentralized, convoluted structure Congress created nearly seven decades ago to let low-paid state employees rule on who should get federal benefits.

The red tape has snarled everything to a standstill. Attempting to bring the system into the 21st century only made the problem worse.

According to director of the Oklahoma office of Disability Determination Services, Brian Nickles, “The states have always struggled. They’re Social Security’s bastard stepchild. The pandemic just exposed the problems.


Problems listed by Acting Social Security commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi as “historically high attrition.” she notes there is an ever growing pile of “medical evidence that must be reviewed, and shortages of physicians to conduct outside medical exams and review cases.

It’s about to get even worse. “Auditors at the Government Accountability Office warned this year that with 80 million aging baby boomers at risk of disabling conditions, the potential for chaos could grow.” It will. Upgrading the system started a nightmare and the screams are still echoing through the disability system.

Social Security threw down a fresh gauntlet: a new case-processing system to track claims. The $153 million investment, facing years of delays, was supposed to improve customer service and save money. An initial rollout in 2019 hit glitches with functionality. The effort restarted in late 2021, but the timing was perilous.” That whole problem was summed up in a nutshell. “States had tailored the old systems to their needs, and the new one not only took months for many employees to learn but also had limited options.


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