There were 1,010,764 initial and reconsideration-level cases pending at state agencies nationwide at the end of February 2022. SSA’s State Agency Workload Data dates back to October 2000, and the only other months where Disability Determination Services (DDS) backlogs have been this high were May-November 2010. Of the claims currently pending, 797,783 are at the initial level and 212,981 are reconsiderations.
The five states with the biggest DDS backlogs are Texas (101,841), Florida (95,168), California (66,331), New York (44,051), and Georgia (42,047). In Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Arkansas, and West Virginia, the backlogs are equivalent to more than five cases pending per every thousand residents. The states with the smallest backlogs relative to state populations are Kansas, Alaska, Minnesota, and Hawaii, plus Puerto Rico, where residents are not eligible for SSI and thus there are fewer claims to process.
The backlog increase is not fully explained by increases in SSI and SSDI claims. Disabled worker claims received by the DDS have decreased each year from 2010 to 2021, according to SSA statistics. However, the last quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 showed increases in DDS receipts compared to those quarters in the year before. Although SSI data is not released as frequently as SSDI data, claims for the two programs generally follow similar trends.
NOSSCR is advocating for SSA to receive adequate administrative funding for hiring, overtime, and technological upgrades to reduce the backlog. NOSSCR staff have engaged with several components at SSA and throughout the executive branch about policy, systems, and operational changes that could make initial- and reconsideration-level decision making more efficient and accurate.
Recognizing that many of the cases currently pending at DDS will eventually require ALJ hearings, NOSSCR has also advocated for additional hiring of ALJs and OHO staff, and was pleased to see that SSA recently posted a hiring notice for ALJs.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.