Despite an initiative to reduce wait times for SSD appeals to get disability benefits, reports say that the overall average wait time for people in Columbia, Missouri, and throughout the country has increased to a record 596 days, or about 1 year and eight months. Back in 2012, the wait time was slightly less than 1 year, that is, 353 days.
Moreover, the notorious backlog of cases pending review before an administrative law judge has also increased. Currently, there are 1.1 million people in the country waiting for hearings on their disability claims, which is up from 700,000 back in 2010.
Although it is the case that if a person prevails on appeal they will get back pay retroactive to five months after they applied, someone waiting for their case to get heard may not have the necessary income to maintain even a basic lifestyle. This is true even when they have other sources of disability income, such as a private pension or retirement plan they can draw from.
The Social Security Administration has been working to reduce its backlog and, under its January 2015 plan, it added 264 administrative law judges to its payrolls in 2016. However, due to government hiring freezes, it only intends to hire 30 more administrative law judges this year. Other parts of the Administration's plan include relying more on video technology to conduct hearings.
Although there may be some things an attorney can do to speed up the appeal process, ultimately people who are unable to work due to an illness or injury are well-advised to submit a thorough and accurate application for benefits as soon as possible and then to be prepared for a wait. Hopefully, the Administration will be able to find a solution to the backlog in the near future.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Wait time for federal disability benefits appeal hits a record," Kathleen Pender, Aug. 19, 2017.