Americans work and pay into the Social Security Disability Insurance program so if they become disabled before retirement age, they have some income to rely on. Unfortunately, due to the backlog of people waiting on disability decisions, they often have to wait an unreasonable amount of time if they are not fortunate to be approved at the onset.
During 2016 and 2017, according to Social Security Administration reports, 19,000 people passed away while waiting for a fully favorable decision on their benefits. This is a sad state for the Social Security Disability Insurance program to be in.
Many claims are denied at the initial levels and applicants have to request a hearing with an administrative law judge. The average waiting time from start (initial application) to finish is 605 days; in some areas of the country, it can be closer to 800 days. For someone who has worked hard and paid into this program and now can no longer work and needs the coverage, this is an unacceptable length of time to wait. By the time a person is approved, he or she is often at the poverty level.
SSA claims the backlog may not subside before 2022. This is despite the fact that they have hired additional judges and staff and endowed additional funding.
For serious conditions, such as cancer and other diseases that have a poor diagnosis of improvement, there is a Compassionate Allowance program, which is supposed to fast-track claimants' cases through the system. However, the U.S. Government Accountability Office declared that the program needs improvements, not to mention that many people are not even aware it exists.
If you are disabled, you should seek a disability attorney to represent you in your case. The GAO report also shows that claimants are three times more likely to be approved if they are represented. This is partially because most people do not understand what is needed for a favorable decision.
Source: Nasdaq, "Nearly 19,000 People Died Waiting For Social Security Disability Benefits In Two Years," accessed Feb. 09, 2018