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Disability news: claims increase, but approvals decrease

With an increase in Social Security disability benefits and a backlog in checks to make sure those receiving benefits are still disabled, there is a concern the money for the program will dry up in 2016. 

According to a recent CBS News article, since 2007 there has been a 25 percent increase in Social Security disability claims for benefits. Social Security officials claim this is due to an aging Baby Boomer population with many suffering from injuries and illness, but still not old enough to apply for retirement benefits. 

In 2012, 3.2 million people applied for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income. However, Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle said that even though there has been an increase in the number of people applying, there has not been a decrease in the approval rate. This means that while more people are applying, more are also having those claims denied. 

This is where some controversy comes in as Rep. James Lankford, the chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Energy, Policy, Health Care and Entitlements, believes too many administrative law judges are approving claims that have already been denied twice by state agencies. 

A union representing these judges claims the judges are trying to get through an intense backlog, which is leading to judges needing to meet a quota. However, the Social Security Administration is denying this quota exists. 

Another issue also facing the Social Security disability program is the fact that there is a backlog of Continuing Disability Reviews, commonly referred to as CDRs. These CDRs are supposed to be conducted periodically to make sure a person receiving disability is still disabled. 

Looking to the future, these issues could mean big changes to the way claims are handled or denied. If something is not worked out, this could also mean a reduction in benefits in 2016. 

At this point, the House oversight committee is scheduled to hold hearings on the program starting this week.

Source: CBS News, "House probe cries foul on Social Security disability claims," June 24, 2013

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