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Budget cuts or government shutdown would severely affect recipients of Social Security Disability

Buffalo, NY — The Social Security Administration (SSA) would face significant challenges in processing local Social Security Disability (SSD) cases if the budget cuts proposed by the Republicans go through. The GOP has proposed providing $10.7 billion to the SSA for 2012. SSA’s Commissioner Michael Astrue has said $12.5 billion is the minimum necessary to allow the agency to function and to work on reducing its backlog of SSD cases.

In Buffalo it currently takes about 518 days for a Social Security Disability claim to be processed, and in Rochester, the processing time is 373 days. Nationwide, the average time for processing an SSD claim is 371 days.

“Buffalo ranks 154th out of 157 regions in the country, and the Rochester office, which was recently split from Buffalo, is 73rd,” said Jeffrey Freedman, senior partner, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys at Law. “For a claimant who doesn’t have any income, even waiting the national average of 12 months for a decision is agonizing. If SSA doesn’t receive adequate financing for the coming year, there is no way the situation is going to improve and claimants will be the ones who suffer.”

Jay Clary, acting associate commissioner of the SSA, said it will be necessary to lay off workers if the agency’s budget needs are not met. He asked the American Federation of Government Employees to start negotiating the terms for furloughing workers. The agency has 70,000 employees in total, 48,000 of which are in the AFGE union.

“There will be even more significant consequences if the members of the House and Senate don’t come to agreement on the budget and the government has to shut down,” Freedman said. “The SSA sends out 53 million checks each month and if those checks aren’t in the mail, retirees and those who count on their SSD benefits are going to be severely impacted.”

Commentators have predicted that the SSA may become the poster child of the budget debate as the prime example of “balancing the budget and reducing the deficit on the backs of the poor.”