When you’re suffering from a disabling condition that prevents you from working, you may naturally turn to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits for relief.
Unfortunately, you probably will have to settle in for a very long wait before you actually see any of those benefits – and that’s only if your claim is approved. Initial SSDI applications are taking longer than ever to process. If your initial claim is denied, waiting on a decision for an appeal can take a year or longer.
How bad is it?
Wait times on decisions for Social Security Disability claims have always been fairly lengthy, but the events of the past few years have caused them to spiral out of control. Instead of receiving decisions in three or four months, initial applicants wait an average of seven months and 10 days to hear whether their claim has been approved or denied.
Since three out of every five applicants will be denied, that means that the vast majority of claimants will have to file a reconsideration request. On average, they’ll wait one year, one month and eight days to get the next decision. If a claimant is forced to request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), they will endure an average wait of two years and seven days to get there.
What’s driving it?
According to both SSA’s internal investigations and reports, the backlog of cases is growing because the events of the last few years have pushed many SSA employees into early retirement, and SSA hasn’t been giving the budget they need to replace them.
Job dissatisfaction for both agency employees and the employees at the Disability Determination Services (DDS), where medical decisions are made, is also soaring. Attrition rates at DDS offices can rise above 25%. That leaves the agency in a constant state of operating on a shoestring budget with a skeleton staff.
SSA officials acknowledge that the public is suffering, but they can do little to reverse the trend without better funding. With that in mind, don’t take chances on your SSDI application. Legal guidance can help you avoid mistakes that would cause your claim to be denied.