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Kind Calls for Improvements in Disability Insurance Backlog

March 25, 2009
Press Release

Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) today called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to move swiftly to address the excessive backlog of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  Rep. Kind, who recently joined the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, brought his concerns to SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue at a hearing today.

“It is unacceptable for people who simply are unable to work due to disability to wait almost two years for a hearing on their applications,” said Rep. Kind.  “This backlog has been building since 2000 and has long been a top concern for me and the people in my district.  We’ve seen constituents who have lost their savings and while they wait to hear back from SSA.”

Today, 765,000 Americans are waiting for a hearing, compared to 310,000 in 2000.  These numbers have grown substantially due to the aging of baby boomers and will continue to grow throughout this economic downturn.  Wisconsin’s backlog has become so severe that its cases are regularly transferred to offices in other states.

The Government Accountability Office listed the backlog of cases at SSA as being a “high-risk” program that requires urgent attention.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1) allocated $500 million to process the backlog and provided funding to fully staff a hearing office in Madison.  SSA’s Milwaukee hearing office continues to struggle to address the needs of Wisconsinites, as it is home to one of the worst waits (594 days) for disability claims hearings in the country.

“After many years of deadlock, we are finally moving to address a troubling lack of attention to the needs of people with disabilities,” Rep. Kind said.  “We need to go further to address the SSDI backlog, as well as undertake new efforts to modernize the disability insurance application process, such as equipping the La Crosse SSA office with the technology it needs to handle the caseload from western Wisconsin.”

Constituents who have any questions about their disability claims should contact Congressman Ron Kind’s La Crosse office at 608-782-2558 or toll-free at 888-442-8040.