Many people seeking Social Security disability benefits are finding they have to plan an extremely long waiting game once they have filed an application for benefits. The outrageous backlogs within the Social Security disability appeals process have devastating consequences on claimants. Many former prosperous, hard-working individuals are being forced to spend down their savings and retirement accounts in order to survive while waiting to be approved for benefits they rightfully deserve. Numerous claimants also face foreclosure on or eviction from their homes after doing the steps to SSD determination process.
So of course the big question on every one’s mind is: What is Taking So Long?
- A complex multi-step appeal process
After a person has filed their initial application for disability benefits, it can take anywhere form 3 to 6 months to get a decision. If the claim is denied, they must file an appeal called a Request for Consideration within a specified time in order to keep the claim going. Once this appeal is filed, it can be another 3 to 6 months before the person is given an answer. If this appeal is denied, they must then file another appeal called a Request for Hearing. Once this appeal is filed, the person will more than likely have to wait anywhere from 18 to 24 months before they actually hear from the judge.
- The “Baby Boom” Generation
Members of the generation of children born between 1946 and 1964, also known as the “Baby Boom” generation, are reaching ages in which chronic and acute health problems may begin. Some individuals of this generation are now experiencing debilitating impairments which hinder their capacity to work. The number of disability applications has mirrored the trend of the spiking birth rate of the “Baby Boom” era. As a result, more new claims are being opened each year than are being resolved. This, in turn, has led to huge backlogs at hearing offices.
- Understaffed Social Security offices
The Social Security Administration simply has not kept up with the increasing amount of applications. Hearing offices are particularly understaffed with both judges and support staff. Local offices struggle with staffing issues as well. While Social Security is implementing new technologies to try to deal with these backlogs, the waiting times, at least for the moment, don’t seem to be getting any shorter.
- Uninformed and unrepresented claimants
Many Social Security claimants simply don’t understand the disability claims process. Many don’t realize that once their claim gets to the hearing office, they can actually request that their medical records be reviewed by a judge or staff attorney for a decision without having to go through a hearing. If the medical records alone exhibit that a claimant meets Social Securities standards of disability, a hearing is not necessary. This can cut the waiting time down dramatically.By hiring an attorney who concentrates in Social Security claims on a daily basis, a claimant can have their case prepared and reviewed to see if such an “on the record” decision is possible. The attorney can also guide the case through the red tape of the process to avoid time lags, clerical errors and other snags along the way. While no attorney no guarantee a quick resolution, a claimant who seeks legal assistance with his or her claim will have a better chance of getting a positive outcome.