Thousands Die Waiting for Social Security Disability Appeals Every Year
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a safety net provided by the federal government that provides financial assistance to disabled individuals and their families. Currently, approximately 8.8 million Americans depend on SSDI, and that number is likely to hit 11,000 in 2019. With that number of recipients, it is not surprising that there is a backlog of appeals when claims are disputed.
But the length of that backlog may come as a shock. According to the Social Security Administration, the average wait for an appeal to be heard and decided is 540 days. An even more shocking statistic is that in 2017, over 10,000 people died while on the SSDI waiting list.
Factors Causing the Backlogs in Social Security Disability
One of the factors causing the tremendous backlog of hearing requests is that baby boomers are now reaching the age where they are far more likely to become disabled. Consequently, the system is now being flooded with new claims. A second factor is that the SSA received a huge increase in disability applications during the economic recession and its aftermath. Add to that the fact that SSA resources are not growing at the same pace as the increased applications. These factors created a perfect storm in terms of stress on the SSA system and its ability to process claims and appeals in a timely manner.
Legislation actually has been introduced to address the backlog, but ironically, the bill itself has been stalled in the House of Representatives for four years awaiting a subcommittee hearing.
Applying for Social Security Disability is Difficult
There are several factors that the Social Security Administration looks at when evaluating disability claims. Some of these are:
“Work Credits.” Rather than measuring work in years, the SSA measures what is called “work credits.” These take into consideration both employment activity and total earnings. An employee can earn up to four work creditors per year, and a lifetime total of 20 credits is required to qualify for SSDI. So the first thing the SSA must determine is whether a claimant has sufficient credits to receive SSDI.
Covered Diseases and Disabilities. Certain diseases and disabilities are covered by SSDI, and others are not. The system that guides this decision making process is also complicated. The “Listing of Impairments,” for instance, is divided into Part A criteria for adults 18 and over and Part B for children under 18. Each of those groups is then further divided into subgroups, and each subgroup has its own detailed definitions, diagnostic requirements and mandatory documentation. So, determining whether a disease or disability is covered is not a simple process.
Medical Evidence. Each claim must be accompanied by medical evidence that includes a doctor’s visit within the last year, an opinion from your treating doctor stating that you are disabled and in some cases additional evidence from a doctor or medical reviewer and a vocational specialist. The form of this evidence and the exact language the doctor uses to describe the disability can vary greatly, and must be thoroughly reviewed before a claim can be accepted.
If a Social Security Disability Claim is Denied, It Can Be Appealed
After a thorough review, some applicants’ claims are denied. SSDI decisions can be appealed, and the appeal is heard before an administrative law judge appointed by the federal government. Prior to the hearing, evidence is collected, depositions are taken, and claimants may seek second medical opinions to support their claim. All of this takes time, and adds to the backlog.
A Social Security Disability Attorney Can Help
Considering all of the above, it is not surprising that there is a backlog, and that some claimants do not survive to see the claim resolved. Filing and monitoring a disability claim is not something for the novice to attempt on his or her own. Hiring an experienced Social Security Disability Attorney is the best way to ensure your claim is filed properly and processed without unnecessary delay.
Long Beach Social Security Lawyers
If you or a loved one is unable to work due to a disabling injury, medical condition or disease our skilled and experienced lawyers are here to help you get the maximum Social Security Disability benefits for which you qualify.
The Law Office of Cantrell Green is a group of highly qualified and experienced disability attorneys who have obtained millions of dollars in Social Security Disability benefits for thousands of clients in Long Beach, Orange County and the greater Los Angeles. Our lawyers care about every client, and fight tirelessly to obtain the benefits you deserve.