The Long Wait for SSDI Benefits

What is causing delays is SSDI benefit approvals?

The Social Security Disability Insurance program is designed to provide financial support to people who are unable to work, providing them with a safety net from poverty. Generally, to qualify for disability, a person must have a physical or mental illness that will prevent the individual from working for at least 1 year or culminate in death. Not only is this is a high bar to cross — many people are denied benefits — but the approval process can be quite long. In these cases some may suffer undue physical, emotional and financial hardship.

What is the reason for SSD delays?

There are many reasons for the delays in SSD approval, which in some cases may be as long as 22 months. Even worse, some people have died while they were waiting. However, in this situation, a surviving spouse is entitled to the benefit.

Some attribute the delays to the huge caseloads of “overburdened judges.” These caseloads, in turn, are due to the large number of aging baby boomers who are becoming disabled while needed staff additions for the Social Security Administration’s were underfunded. Currently the SSD program stands at $126 billion which provides benefits to about 9 million people who are permanently unable to work as well as 8 million low-income people.

The SSA claims that the national average for a decision is about 16 months even though the agency has tried to limit caseloads and may even have pushed administrative judges to approve cases. In fact, an investigation conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform committee found that hundreds of judges were rubber-stamping approvals, costing taxpayers billions. The Obama administration, however, stated that there was no evidence of rubber-stamping and the approval rates have actually declined by about 10 percent in recent years.

In an effort to address the problem, the SSA has set a goal to reduce the wait to 270 days or less by 2020. In addition, they have put a “pre-hearing triage program” in place, plan on hiring 400 more judges by 2018, and are conducting video hearing to reduce backlogs. In the meantime, countless people are falling into despair as they wait for SSD approval.

If you are disabled and unable to work, an attorney experience with the SSD program can help you qualify for benefits.