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Senator Casey and Congressman Boyle Introduce Bill To Combat Pennsylvania Disability Benefit Backlog

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Congressman Brendan F. Boyle (PA-13) introduced legislation to prevent the Social Security Administration (SSA) from imposing an additional administrative hurdle in 10 states, called reconsideration, onto the already onerous process of determining Social Security disability benefit eligibility.  Reconsideration would harm many applicants stuck in the unacceptable backlog of pending claims awaiting adjudication in Pennsylvania.  According to SSA’s own estimates adding this step would add an average of 100 days to thousands of applicants’ wait times.


Upon introduction of the bill, the Senator and Congressman released the following statements:


“The Social Security Administration’s wait times are unacceptably high and harm individuals with disabilities nationwide. These wait times place incredible financial strain on people with disabilities who cannot work, and thousands die each year while waiting to get a final decision on disability benefits,” said Sen. Casey. “SSA shouldn’t impose an additional step that adds another 100 days of wait time to the disability benefits application process for tens of thousands of applicants. The Social Security Disability Protection Act (S. 3741) would stop SSA from taking this unnecessary and harmful step. People with disabilities nationwide and in Pennsylvania rely on Social Security, and we must stand up for them to ensure they can access these benefits when they need them.”


“It is unconscionable that Pennsylvanians with disabilities face years-long delays just to have their cases heard,” said Congressman Boyle.  “This bureaucratic nightmare is taking away their livelihood, threatening their health, and even putting some of their lives in jeopardy.  I refuse to allow the Social Security Administration to erect additional barriers that have not been found to assist claimants, especially as SSA is still working to address current backlogs – and Philadelphia’s remains among the worst in the nation.  We have a legal and moral obligation to allow our neighbors to receive the life-saving assistance they are owed by law.”


The bill is expected to be referred to the Finance Committee in the Senate (S. 3741) and the Ways and Means Committee in the House (H.R. 7276).  Casey and Boyle have been pushing SSA to reduce current backlogs and provide an explanation for its decision to impose reconsideration on Social Security disability program applicants in the ten states, including Pennsylvania, that were exempted from reconsideration in 1999.


Under SSA’s plan,in the 10 states, more than 105,000 people with disabilities would have to wait longer for a decision on their eligibility for benefits in the first year. They would need to go through the reconsideration step before receiving a hearing, adding over an average of over three months to already excessive wait times.  More than 35,000 people with disabilities will drop out of the application process altogether because of the addition of another lengthy step.


The following organizations have endorsed the bill: National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, The Arc of the United States, the Center for Legal Services (Philadelphia) and the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives.