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More problems for the SSDI program

The operation of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is facing many challenges. The trust fund that helps support the payments from the system is rapidly approaching exhaustion. If Congress fails to act, this could lead to a significant reduction in benefit payments.

The processing of SSDI benefit applications is still plagued with long waits and delays for applicants. In many cases, it may be more than 100 days before an initial claim is processed. If a claim is denied and it is necessary to appeal to an administrative law judge, the time required for the claim may stretch to 400 days.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been long aware of this problem and the hardship it creates for many disabled workers attempting to obtain the needed SSDI benefits.

When you apply for SSDI here in Ohio, your claim is first processed by the state-operated Disability Determination Services. The 54 DDS offices across the country use different systems, which hampers coordination and makes any system-wide changes difficult.

The SSA has been working on a new computer system to replace these disparate systems, but after six years and $288 million, the system is still not functional. The agency hired outside consultants to help fix the problem.

Congressional critics of the SSA called it “an IT boondoggle.” But, as anyone who knows anything about complex IT infrastructure would recognize, replacing 54 independent systems handling the inherently complex SSDI application is a daunting project.

Ironically, if it is a boondoggle, it is not the SSA that is performing the upgrade, but a private contractor, Lockheed Martin. With the increasing number of SSDI applications and Congressional intransigence with funding for both the agency and the program, it is little wonder that there are problems.

Source: CBSNew.com, “Social Security IT project cost $300M and it doesn’t work,” Associated Press, July 24, 2014

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