March 5, 2007
People with mental illness who apply for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) or for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are currently waiting longer and longer for decisions on eligibility. This is especially the case for claimants that are forced to file appeals to overturn a denial of benefits to which they are entitled. As revealed in Congressional hearings and news articles, some people have lost their homes and families while they wait for decisions. Others use up all their resources and cannot afford critical medications and treatments, resulting in increased disability and even death. In some places, the wait is almost 900 days, or almost two and one-half more years!
Insufficient funding has also resulted in other reduced services, including delays in processing earnings reports and the inability to respond to reports of lost checks or answer questions from beneficiaries or the public. The problem has reached crisis proportions and will continue to get worse for people with disabilities. The President’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2008 indicates that average waiting times will continue to grow, even if the Social Security Administration (SSA) is funded at the level of his request ($9.6 billion).
The solution is simple: the SSA must be given enough funding to get disability decisions made in a timely manner. As required by law, the Commissioner of Social Security submitted a budget request separate from the President’s request. This request indicates that the agency needs $10.44 billion in administrative funding for FY 2008 for its administrative expenses, known as SSA’s Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE). This is almost $1 billion more than the President requested.
Action on the FY 2008 budget has already begun. If SSA is going to receive the funds it needs to reduce the backlogs of disability decisions and improve other services, it is imperative that the House and Senate Budget Committees include enough funding for SSA in the FY 2008 Budget Resolution. The House and Senate Budget Committees will mark up their Budget Resolutions in early to mid March.
Contact your representatives in the House and Senate and urge them to contact the leadership of the House and Senate Budget Committees to encourage them to authorize additional resources for the Social Security Administration (SSA) under the Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE). This funding is vital to reducing the backlog of Social Security claims and speeding up response time. It is important that every Member of Congress urge the Chairman of their respective Budget Committee to include sufficient funding in the Budget Resolution to appropriate funds for SSA’s Limitation on Administrative Expenses at the level requested by the Commissioner of SSA: $10.44 billion for FY 2008.
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