Applying for Social Security disability benefits is a long and complex process, but issues at the Social Security Administration are now causing even more delays. The Social Security Administration attributes the longer wait times for hearing decisions to a number of different reasons. First, the agency has received a record number of hearing requests for the last several years, primarily because of the number of baby boomers that are now entering disability-prone years. Second, the Social Security Administration saw an increased number of applications during the recession and its aftermath. Third, resources at the agency shrunk, leading to an increased backlog of hearings and decisions for disability claims.
Currently, there are about 986,000 pending hearings with the Social Security Administration and the average wait time for a decision is 600 days. In order to eliminate the backlog, Social Security will have to reduce the number of people waiting for a decision for the next fifteen consecutive months. This issue stems from too few administrative law judges and too few staff to help them administer disability claims hearings. At the current rate, experts believe that new applicants for Social Security disability may end up waiting more than two years for a decision on their hearing, and during that time there will be no benefits coming in to help them pay for food, shelter, and other necessities.
Administrative law judges, meanwhile, blame the Social Security Administration for not updating their technology and policies to adapt to the growing surge of applications. In 2016, over 2.3 million disability claims were filed with the Social Security Administration, 630,000 more than were filed in 2002. Social Security planned on hiring hundreds of new judges to hear disability claims cases, but only hired a fraction of the original number to help with the backlog. Claimants, judges, and experts also all agree that the backlog creates pressure to adjudicate cases as quickly as possible, which may not give each hearing the time and consideration it deserves.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Disability claims lawyers understand what is at stake when applying for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration. Hiring a lawyer with experience in Social Security disability claims can help in a number of ways. First, a lawyer can help you fill out the application properly so it is not declined for procedural technicalities. Second, a lawyer can help navigate the complexities of the appeals process if your claim is denied. Third, a lawyer can examine the facts of your case and see if there are any other avenues for benefits, such as workers’ compensation, that can help ease the financial burden while your disability benefits claim is decided.
Our Office Can Help
If you would like to learn more about how our office can help you with your Social Security disability claim, call or contact our office today in Virginia. At Harbison & Kavanagh, our firm understands the ins and outs of the disability claims process and can assist you through every stage of your case.