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SSA's budget proposal for 2016

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been faced with many challenges in the last few years. There is the long-term and growing backlog for hearings on Social Security disability (SSD) cases, the impending shortfall with the SSD trust fund and the disastrous consequences which would harm many beneficiaries of the SSD program.

There is the sequestration, which imposed an across the board spending cut on almost all federal agencies and has crippled the administration of many of the necessary programs within SSA. And there is the constant red herring of "fraud and waste" that smears the agency and the program.

While reading a federal budget proposal is hardly most people's idea of a good time, the fiscal year 2016 request from SSA does describe how SSA is working to deal with and solve many of these problems.

The hearing backlog for Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) is critical, as delays in obtaining a hearing are a significant roadblock for applicants. Your potential benefit payment cannot be paid until the hearing is completed and the ALJ has approved your claim.

SSA is working to both hire more ALJs and to improve the hiring process in conjunction with other federal agencies, which could speed the availability of more ALJs sooner, and help reduce the backlog from the million applicants, who may wait more than 470 days for their hearing.

They also propose a reallocation of trust resources to ensure that SSD beneficiary do not see the 20 percent reduction in their payments that would result from the exhaustion of the SSDI trust fund.

While these proposals look good on paper, they have a significant hurdle to overcome, that of the U.S. Congress. It is not clear that Congress will go along with these proposals, and that would be troubling for the millions who depend on this program.

Source: ssa.gov, "Social Security FY 2016 Budget Fact Sheet," document accessed August 2015

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