The Social Security Administration has proposed a major overhaul to the notoriously slow system it uses to evaluate applications for disability benefits.[@@]

The overhaul could have a big effect on private disability insurers, because many try to coordinate payment of their benefits with payment of Social Security disability benefits, and many private insurers consider Social Security disability determinations when evaluating disability claimants.

One major shift will be a transition to an electronic claim evaluation process, SSA officials write in a preamble to a version of the proposed regulation that appears today in the Federal Register.

Officials note that a 2001 study found that the SSA was taking an average of 1,153 days to process a typical disability claim but that SSA employees spent an average of only about 7 days actually working on the claim.

State disability programs took only 3.5 months to process disability claims, the officials write.

Public comments on the proposed overhaul are due Oct. 25.

A copy of the proposed regulation is on the Web at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/pdf/05-14845.pdf