The Social Security Administration could get an additional $300 million to address the nationwide backlog of disability benefit appeals if the Senate approves the funding that the House green-lighted Wednesday.
“I don’t think there’s any question we need to help the SSA” decrease its backlog, said Rep. Susan Wild (D., Pa.), an advocate of the funding increase.
Wild said the money would be used to hire more administrative law judges and clerical staff; in particular, $22 million would staff the tele-service center. Money would also be spent to improve the computer system.
The $300 million would be in addition to $13 billion allocated to the Social Security Administration for operations, and is part of the House’s $982.8 billion spending package for fiscal year 2020 for education, health and human services, labor, defense, and energy.
Wild said she was inspired to push for the additional money after The Inquirer last year highlighted the delays thousands of Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians faced while waiting for a disability appeal hearing. Prior to her 2018 election to Congress, Wild was a practicing attorney, and she said she had a number of clients who had long waits for benefits.
After an Inquirer article last year on Philadelphia having the longest wait time in the country for appeals, the federal government added administrative judges to the city’s two appeal offices. Wait times significantly decreased by the end of the year, and now are the third lowest in the nation.
Philadelphia averaged 462 days for processing and deciding appeals, below the national average of 515 days. But that is still above the goal of 270.
“Delay means death for a lot of people, and I think it’s vital we address it,” Wild said, referring to the thousands of people who die while waiting for benefits.
The Senate will now craft its own budget priorities and the two chambers will reconcile the versions. Wild said she hasn’t heard of any Senate opposition to the $300 million increase.