Key Issues > Improving and Modernizing Federal Disability Programs - High Risk Issue
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Improving and Modernizing Federal Disability Programs - High Risk Issue

Modernization of fragmented federal disability programs and improvements to key disability benefit programs are needed to meet the growing workloads resulting from individuals with disabilities leaving the workforce and service members returning from war.

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This key issue page is related to an area on GAO’s 2017 High Risk Update and will be updated shortly. In the meantime, visit the related High Risk area for the newest information.

As stated in GAO's 2015 High Risk report, federal disability programs across government remain fragmented and in need of modernization. Numerous federal programs provide a patchwork of services and supports to people with disabilities, and work independently without a unified vision and strategy or set of goals to guide their outcomes. Further, three of the largest disability benefit programs—managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—rely on outdated criteria to determine whether individuals should qualify for benefits. Although SSA and VA have undertaken efforts to update their criteria, aspects of their programs continue to emphasize medical conditions when assessing an individual's ability to work without sufficient consideration of improvements offered by advances in medicine, technology, or changes in the modern work environment. Moreover, these programs may continue to face growing disability claims workloads resulting in part from individuals with disabilities leaving the workforce during a difficult economic recovery and from service members returning from war. These workload challenges are likely to persist, not withstanding SSA and VA efforts to process more claims. GAO designated improving and modernizing federal disability programs as high risk in 2003.

This High Risk Report is updated every two years, at the start of each new Congress. For more information on this High Risk Issue, see What We Found and What Remains to Be Done.

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2015 Update to GAO's High Risk ListWednesday, February 11, 2015
  • portrait of Daniel Bertoni
    • Daniel Bertoni
    • Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security
    • (202) 512-7215