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The CDR backlog is the fault of Congress

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program faces many challenges. The Social Security Administration (SSA) must deal with issues ranging from the exhaustion of the SSDI trust fund and the potential for a substantial cut to benefit payments to allegations of fraud within the program.

The problems, of course, are all related and these complexities make it difficult to “solve” any single issue. For instance, the SSA has the task of reviewing recipients of disability benefits periodically to assess their condition and determine if they remain eligible for SSDI benefits. 

This is no simple matter. A Continuing Disability Review (CDR) is required to be conducted for beneficiaries on varying time schedules. For some, who are expected to improve, a CDR may be required within three years or less of the award of benefits.

For other conditions where improvement is possible, but where it is unclear if it will occur, the CDR is required every three years. The last category, where no improvement is expected, a CDR is still supposed to occur every three to five years.

This process is time consuming and demanding, the adjudicator must find “both that the beneficiary has improved medically in ways relevant to work and that he/she is, in fact, able to work.”

This means the determination is neither quick nor easy. And this is where the problem with Congress enters. Funding dedicated to CDRs expired in 2003, and Congress has failed to adequately fund this process during the last decade. This has led to a 1.3 million CDR backlog.

In 2011, they authorized additional funding to resolve this backlog, but in the following three years only appropriated funds in one of those years. At this rate, it will take 30 years to eliminate the backlog, instead of the ten planned.

Adequate funding is necessary to preserve all elements of the integrity of SSDI program, and Congress needs to become serious and solve these funding issues.

ssab.gov, “2014 Disability Policy Panel: Continuing Disability Reviews,” Social Security Advisory Board, December 2014

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