It looks like the ill-conceived and poorly thought out furloughs of state disability determination personnel may be going to end for good. The Commissioner of Social Security, Michael J. Astrue, has asked Congress to approve legislation to require that states get the commissioner’s prior authorization to cut down on the number of state personnel or the hours they work.
The legislation is needed, according to Astrue, to prevent state from issuing furloughs or hiring freezes that affect the Social Security Administration’s ability to get benefits to disabled Americans. Furloughs of federally paid state disability determination workers were implemented by more than twelve states.
The furloughs were enacted by states looking to save money during tough economic times. However, they were controversial and poorly conceived for several reasons:
- Disability determination service (DDS) work is 100 percent federally funded
- Furloughs of federally funded workers saves no money for states
- Furloughing disability determination workers slows down the Social Security Disability claims process for disabled citizens
- Furloughs of these workers reduces state income tax revenue
- Furloughs increase unemployment at the state level
Hopefully Congress will pass this legislation quickly. Preventing states from needlessly furloughing federally funded disability determination employees won’t eliminate the huge claims processing delays, but it will ensure that the most vulnerable among us are able to get the benefits they need in a timelier manner.