At a time when the headlines are full of criticism of the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s SSDI and SSI programs, one headline stands out as an example of the outstanding efforts of some individuals in helping deserving applicants receive the benefits they deserve in a timely manner.
The Bismark, North Dakota Department of Human Services recently recognized its Disability Determination Services (DDS) team, made up of 23 employees, for their excellence in fast, accurate processing of disability cases which come through their office.
DHS awarded three particular women with high honors. Employee Sandy Heck received the 2011 Director’s Award for Best Initial Processing Time. Her records of processing first-time applications for disability benefits were roughly 20 days faster than the national average. Considering the average wait time of several months for most first-time determinations, Heck’s standards emulate the SSA’s ultimate goal of reducing the time claimants wait for benefits.
Another Bismarck DDS worker, Ellen Berg, received the 20011 Director’s Award for Most Claim Clearances. This year alone she processed 552 claims. The backlog of cases which the SSA has faced in recent years due to higher claim volume and staffing reductions requires the expediency shown by Ellen’s work. If all DDS workers were able to increase the number of cases they process each year, it would have a significant impact on the Social Security Disability program as a whole.
The third award given to the DDS team was the 2011 Director’s Award for Quality Decision Making, awarded to Amanda Jensen. Amanda’s achievement was a 99% accuracy rating on claims which she processed this year, higher than the national average of 95% accuracy. This shows that speed is not the only important quality when the SSA’s valuable resources are being handed out. If cases are not thoroughly and efficiently determined, benefits may be awarded to unqualified recipients or denied to others who do. Amanda’s accuracy has saved the Social Security Disability program from being cheated by abusers while improving its financial viability.
The Bismarck, North Dakota Disability Determination Services team should be proud of their accomplishments. People like Sandy, Ellen, and Amanda are an example of the potential within the Social Security Disability program for internal reform, instead of that from politicians who do not truly know how the system works. Other DDS offices should be fighting to evaluate what makes the Bismarck office so efficient and accurate and desire to follow their pattern for success.
The excellence of DDS offices such as Bismarck also stands as an encouragement and refreshment to Social Security Disability applicants all over the country, not just in North Dakota. Applying for disability benefits can be confusing, difficult, and even after a long wait, fail to produce the desired (and needed) results. Faith in the work ethic and skill of DDS workers can restore courage to those who are considering applying for disability. And, although it is almost unnecessary to mention, when DDS workers process claims in a timely manner, those who are suffering the most can receive the relief they need to live a better, healthier life.