Senators are urging their colleagues to provide no less than President Donald Trump’s request of $12.5 billion for the Social Security Administration’s administrative budget for fiscal 2018 in any final appropriations bill in order to reduce the disability appeals hearing backlog for Social Security Disability Insurance.

“We are concerned that the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriations bill recently reported by the full Appropriations committee reduces SSA’s administrative budget by almost $460 million,” Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told Sens. Roy Blunt and Patty Murray, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

Adequate funding for the Social Security Administration’s administrative budget, which is used in part to reduce the disability appeals hearing backlog for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), is critical as the backlog has reached a record high, with average wait times of about 600 days, Wyden and Brown wrote in their letter.

“At a time when the agency is facing an unprecedented number of our constituents waiting for a hearing and recent press articles have headlines stating that ‘thousands die on waitlists,’ SSA cannot make significant progress at reducing the disability hearings backlog without adequate resources,” the senators wrote.

SSA has a plan to improve the agency’s operations and reduce the hearings backlog, called the Compassionate And REsponsive Service (CARES) plan, the Senators said.   

“The CARES plan will modernize informational technology systems, improve business processes, and — importantly — hire more administrative law judges and the necessary support staff,” they said. “Without adequate and sustained administrative resources, SSA will be unable to implement these improvements and wait times will continue to grow.”