The Social Security Administration (SSA) encourages unsuccessful applicants for disability benefits to avail themselves of the various appellate procedures that it offers. Many persons in Missouri have followed this advice, but they often wait many months or even years to receive a decision after the appeal hearing is concluded. Information emerging from the SSA now shows that this experience is not unique.
Several SSA officials have acknowledged that the situation is a “crisis. The number of people currently waiting for a decision on their SSD appeals is 1.1 million. In 2015, administrative law judges decided about half of the cases that were heard. The average wait is 525 days, almost exactly 1-1/2 years. This average compares unfavorably to an average wait in 2012 of 360 days and to the agency’s goal of 270 days.
The SSA cites several causes for these delays. Congress has not appropriated enough money to hire more administrative law judges to handle the backlog. The agency needs an additional 400 judges to handle the case load. Also, as the population ages, more people seek disability benefits. The number of people receiving benefits grew from 62 million in 2014 to 65 million in March 2016. Some SSA officials do not appear to take kindly to criticism of the backlog. In Wisconsin, an employee of the Milwaukee SSA office is facing potential dismissal because he complained to federal authorities about the office’s growing backlog of cases.
The long wait time for appeals to be decided has caused inordinate suffering for some applicants. Many do not have enough income to make ends meet without SSD benefits, and some are facing bankruptcy as the result. Others endure severe pain because they cannot obtain medical insurance. Nevertheless, anyone who suffers from an illness or injury that prevents them from working should not be deterred from applying for disability benefits. An attorney who specializes in handling such claims can assist in gathering the relevant medical and employment information to support a claim and can pursue an appeal if the initial claim is denied.
Source: Salem News, “Appealing for disability benefits brings arduous wait,” Kery Murakami, May 16, 2016