Alleviating the Backlog of Disability Claims
The number of new disability cases is expected to jump about 15% this year to 2.9 million, hitting the SSA hard. The 37% of claims that can be processed without an appeal take an average of 100 days to process, and those going through the agency’s hearing process take as long as 850 days.
The SSA’s new workflow system will use artificial intelligence techniques to search e-medical records for diagnoses that support a disability applicant’s claim. The system will then coach claims examiners through the steps needed to determine and document eligibility.
With the new system, the SSA should be able to receive patient information in less than a minute and begin analyzing it immediately, SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue says. That’s a huge improvement over the current 26 days to get what often adds up to only half of the records needed to make an eligibility decision, he says.
Ending the claims backlog and coping with data glut are Astrue’s immediate challenges. Long term, he knows that the $1 billion in stimulus funds he’s putting into these efforts had better be money well spent if his agency is to stay front and center in budget makers’ minds. For a long time, the SSA “suffered because there were other agencies that got top priority,” he says. “We’ve got to use this money wisely.”