Social Security – Congressman Lewis Gets Results in Reducing the Disability Backlog; but Progress is Threatened Under Republican-led Congress
Social Security has long been celebrated as one of the most successful and effective government programs ever implemented. It keeps millions of seniors and disabled Americans out of poverty and provides a safety net for millions of workers. However, due to significant under-funding by a Republican-led Congresses bent on privatizing the program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) had been damaged.
After years of hard work, and increased funding from the Democratic-led Congress, the SSA has responded to Congressman Lewis’ demand for action and has significantly reduced the backlog by hiring new Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s) and, in the summer of 2010, opening a new office in Covington Georgia, to take the pressure off of the Atlanta and Atlanta North offices, and get disability claims resolved more quickly.
There had been significant progress reducing the backlogs, however, with the economic downturn and the funding cuts from the Republican-led Congress, is sending the Agency in the wrong direction. Field offices are closing early, meaning that beneficiaries are not being served. Backlogs are again growing, despite the progress that was made. Congressman Lewis will continue his effective oversight of the SSA and will fight for adequate funding for SSA, so that people get the benefits they deserve, when they need them.
From 1998 to 2007 the Social Security Administration received $4.6 billion less than the Commissioner requested. Lack of adequate funding has meant poor service to our seniors and disabled Americans, growing waiting lists to process disability appeals, a greater incidence of administrative errors, not to mention staff lay-offs and plummeting morale within SSA. Several years ago, the Social Security disability backlog was so large that it was the single biggest constituent complaint to Congressman Lewis’ office. People were actually dying as they waited as long as 3 years for a decision about whether they were entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. Atlanta had the worst backlogs in the country.
Congressman Lewis was outraged and got to work. Congressman Lewis testified before the House Budget Committee on the problems in the 5th Congressional District and demanded increased funding for SSA, to hire more staff to adjudicate cases and get desperately needed benefits into the hands of those who deserve them. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Chairman Lewis demanded and the Committee held extensive hearings on the backlog. Chairman Lewis demanded that the Administrator develop a specific plan for the Atlanta area, including a plan to add more people to process claims. Congressman Lewis worked with the Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, the Budget Committee, and the Appropriations Committee.