OK...so "tweak" (from our last post) is clearly not even close to the right word to describe what's happening in the Senate on the economic recovery plan.  In truth, conservatives are now hoping to eviscerate this plan while a small group of moderates are searching for a reported $80-$100 billion to cut out of it. Among the proposed cuts being offered by moderates is $140 million targeted to go to the Social Security Administration for IT.  Here is the legislative description of how that money would be used:
$140 million shall be available through 9/30/10 for information technology acquisitions and research, which may include research and activities to facilitate the adoption of electronic medical records in disability claims and the transfer of funds to "Supplemental Security Income" to carry out activities under section 1110 of the Social Security Act: Provided further, That not later than 10 days prior to obligation of such funds, the Commissioner shall provide to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate an operating plan describing the planned uses of such funds.
It's hard to imagine how Senators see this expenditure as wasteful given the fact that millions of Americans are already sitting in an unacceptable disability backlog and SSA administrator Michael Astrue says the current economy has made it even worse: 
"The Social Security Administration is facing an influx of new disability claims due to the struggling economy, a factor impeding its ability to reduce a backlog of 765,000 hearing requests, the agency's commissioner said on Friday. In an interview with Government Executive, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said the tough economy has increased the disability claims caseload by about 10 percent -- or 250,000 cases -- more than the agency had projected and budgeted for. He said SSA also has its hands tied when it comes to hiring new staff to address the increase in claims, largely because it is operating on a continuing resolution through March, which provides funding at fiscal 2008 levels. "Help is already too late," he said. ‘The tidal wave is hitting us, and we don't have the money to staff up appropriately.' "
Providing funds to speed up processing of disability claims is clearly not pork, it's  not wasteful and it deserves to remain a part of our nation's economic recovery plan.  We wonder if those Senators leading this effort, specifically Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) know: 
  • Increased Number of Disability claims filed 10/08-1/09 
  • Nebraska: 8.5%

    Maine: 12.6%

  • Increased Pending in Disability claims 1/09 versus FY 2008

Maine: 21.8%

Nebraska: 9.9%

  • In the Omaha, Nebraska Hearings Office there are:

3,299 pending hearings

1,655 are over 365 days old

Processing time this year is 562 days (national time is 485 days)

  •  In the Portland, Maine Hearing Office there are:

2827 pending hearings

70 are over 365 days old

Processing time this year is 259 days...unbelievably, this is the best in country

Speeding up the processing time for Social Security's disability claims is exactly the type of targeted economic stimulus which directly helps Americans suffering in this economic meltdown.   Email your Senator, tell them to stop playing politics and pass an economic recovery plan designed for Americans who desperately need it.