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Backlogs and The Social Security Administration: A History

As you’ve seen many times on the news, on the Internet and on our blog, there is a big problem with backlogs in the Social Security Administration. An August 2008 article in The Oregonian puts the number at 762,335 who are waiting on an appeal decision. That was before the onset of the recent economic climate, so it is very possible that number has ballooned over the past year.

All this media coverage sparked our interest. So we started looking back through the years to see if we could find any other examples of backlogs being discussed in the media. This is what we found.

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The above article is from a Dec 3rd, 1975 edition of the Eugene Register. You may have to get close to the computer screen to read it, but the main point of the article is a backlog of 100,000 appeals in the Social Security Administration. To relieve this backlog, Congress voted 370 to 0 in favor of an emergency bill to expedite the process. The last paragraph mentions that if this bill is put into authority, then the backlog would be reduced by an estimated 3,000 a month.

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The picture above is an excerpt from an article by Brooks Jackson of the Associated Press penned February 1st of 1978. The article is more focused on the lack of hiring by the Social Security Administration, rather than the backlog, but it does mention that the lack of Judges in the system is only compounding the backlogs. The aforementioned article from The Oregonian said this of today’s system: “…an agency whose staffing levels are below those seen during the Nixon administration 34 years ago…”

While this article was published about a year into Jimmy Carter’s term, it is still a parallel between the times of the 1970’s and today. It is simple logic. If you don’t have enough people to churn through the stack of appeals, backlogs will happen.

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Lastly, we go to AP Writer, Jennifer Dixon, and her article on the backlogs in 1993. The 732,000 backlog mentioned in this article is just initial applications, not appeals.Simply, backlogs and the Social Security Administration have a pretty rich history.

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