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Social Security Determination offices in states face problems

Feb. 10, 2004 -- In 2002, the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs paid about $74.1 billion to about 8.5 million individuals with disabilities.

But the more than 50 state-operated offices that determine whether applicants are eligible for disability benefits have significant problems, says a report issued last month by the General Accounting Office.

Staff turnover in among the examiners in the state Social Security offices who handle the caseload -- the front line in determining who gets benefits and who is denied them -- is about twice that of federal employees performing similar work. "Nearly two-thirds of all directors reported that turnover has increased SSA's hiring and training costs and claims-processing times. And two-thirds of all directors cited stressful workloads and noncompetitive salaries as major factors that contributed to turnover," said the report.

More than three-quarters of state directors told GAO they had difficulties recruiting and hiring examiners. "Of these, more than three-quarters said these difficulties contributed to increases in claims-processing times, examiner caseload levels, backlogs, and turnover. More than half of all directors reported that state-imposed compensation limits contributed to hiring difficulties.

Nearly one-half of all directors said that at least a quarter of their examiners needed additional training in areas critical to disability decision-making. Over half of all directors cited factors related to high workload levels as obstacles to examiners' receiving additional training.

Furthermore, said the report, "the design of SSA's disability programs remains grounded in outmoded concepts of disability that persist despite scientific advances and economic and social changes that have redefined the relationship between impairments and the ability to work."

Read the report "Strategic Workforce Planning Needed to Address Human Capital Challenges Facing the Disability Determination Services " in PDF form





Read the EEOC's Primer for Small Business on complying with the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act




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