Senators call for additional funding to help with Social Security backlog

Baucus, Tester Say Folks Shouldn’t Have To Wait Years To Get Benefits

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and others called on the Senate Budget Committee to provide an additional $350 million to help reduce the backlog of the Social Security Administration's administrative work such as disability benefits applications and appeals.

Next week the Senate will be working on the fiscal year 2009 budget. Baucus and Tester are working to make sure that Montanans who need Social Security disability benefits are able to hear back on their applications and appeals sooner rather than later. Baucus and Tester, along with 40 other U.S. Senators, sent a letter to the Senate Budget Committee calling for the additional funding.

"Currently, many applicants to the Social Security Disability Insurance program and the disability portion of the Supplemental Security Income program face significant delays before receiving benefits," wrote the senators. "Indeed, waiting times can exceed three years in some cases. Such delays create serious or desperate financial situations for the applicants and their families. According to the SSA, about half of these waiting times result from the Agency's huge backlogs of initial claims and hearings before Administrative Law Judges."

Baucus is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Social Security. Last fall, Baucus secured a $150 million increase in an appropriations spending bill for the Social Security Administration (SSA) for the current fiscal year to help reduce the administrative backlog – such as processing applications and to help with application appeals.

In Montana, the SSA has nine field offices located in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Glasgow, Great Falls, Havre, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula.  There is a disability determination service in Helena, where disability claims are first heard.

As of 2005, more than 168,000 Montanans relied on Social Security benefits and more than 14,000 relied on Supplemental Security Income benefits.  More than 7,000 people were awarded Social Security benefits in Montana in 2005 and more than 2,000 were awarded Supplemental Security Income benefits. In 2005, Baucus blocked a plan proposed by President Bush to privatize social security.

Baucus and Tester said that over the past few years Congress has increased the SSA's responsibilities and caseloads and that additional funding is needed to meet the growing demands. The senators said they're committed to working together with their colleagues to secure this additional, much-needed funding.