During fiscal year 2017, more than one million people waited for Social Security disability hearings. According to The Denver Post, each of the 1,067,616 people who were waiting for a hearing had already been denied benefits. Many of them have already waited or will wait more than two years for a hearing.
What Happens While They Wait?
While many people waiting for a hearing will ultimately be successful in their Social Security disability appeals, the impact of the long wait time should not be forgotten. Last year approximately 7,400 people died while waiting for Social Security disability hearings and those who survive the wait time may be in significant financial trouble without the disability benefits that they have earned through their years of work and of paying into the Social Security disability system. While back payments may eventually be awarded, it does not make the wait for benefits any easier.
Why Is This Happening?
The Social Security Administration is aware of the problem and blames it on budget cuts over the past five years. Last year, the Social Security Administration’s budget was about the same as it was in 2011; however, there were 6 million more people receiving some form of Social Security benefits last year than there were in 2011.
The agency plans to hire 500 additional administrative law judges to join the approximately 1,600 judges who currently hear cases nationwide. 600 support staff positions are also expected to be filled to help with the workload.
How to Protect Yourself If You are Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits
The majority of initial Social Security disability applications are denied and many of those denials are because of mistakes that could have been avoided. A board certified Social Security disability lawyer can make sure that your application is filled out completely and with all the supporting materials so that, if possible, your application can be approved without going through the appeals process.
For more information about how the Social Security disability application process works, please read our FREE book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know, or call us directly to schedule your initial consultation.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.