On June 6, 2011, more than a year after TRAC had started studying the operations of the Social Security Administration, TRAC sent the SSA a one-page summary of our proposed key findings and asked the agency for their comments. While the SSA acknowledged receipt of the findings, the agency never provided any response.
Two weeks later, simultaneous with the actual release of this report to the public, Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue released a statement (dated June 20, 2011) that was critical of TRAC's report. That statement in its entirety can be viewed here.
Commissioner Astrue's statement does not change the basic fact documented by TRAC's analysis of the Social Security Administration's own data: cases awaiting decision before the SSA's disability courts are increasing, recently at an accelerating pace.
For the last four and a half years — and as recently as March of this year — the agency has repeatedly stated that dealing with the buildup in pending cases and preventing their recurrence was central to the agency's efforts to improve the SSA's operation. The agency also made this the SSA's number one strategic goal, against which the agency's annual performance is measured.
While SSA changes have succeeded in reducing the time appellants must wait for a decision — an achievement noted in our June 20 report on the SSA — the very latest data the agency released Monday, June 20, show that the growth in pending cases is accelerating and reached 740,998 at the end of May 2011. This compares with its established performance goal of reducing pending cases to 668,000 by September 2011, down from 694,000 cases pending in March 2010. These data indicate that the agency continues to fall farther behind and appears unable to keep up with the growing mountain of cases awaiting its decision.