Getting Social Security disability benefits is not an easy process. This is true even for those who clearly qualify for the benefits. The application process is a struggle and denials are common. Making matters even worse, the backlog of applications that require review has snowballed over the last decade.
This increase is the result of many factors, but two key changes that have contributed to this backlog include a decrease in funding to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and changes to the review process.
How does a decrease in funding translate to an increased backlog?
Funding for the SSA has shrunk in recent years. The SSA’s core operating budget is down 10 percent since 2010. Without proper funding, the agency will struggle to hire the help needed to review and approve applications. This translates to an increased wait time for those who apply for benefits.
Unfortunately, the agency’s financial struggles may get worse. In a recent post, Social Security Disability under pressure from proposed budget, we previously discussed how President Trump is considering decreasing the disability insurance program by almost $70 billion over the next ten years. This budget cut will further strain the review process and likely translate to additional increases in the backlog.
What changes are adding to the backlog?
In an attempt to reduce the risk of approving fraudulent applications, the agency recently implemented a measure that removes any special consideration that is provided to an applicant’s physician. This means that the evidence presented by a physician that has potentially provided treatment to the applicant for decades receives the same consideration as that provided by a medical professional that does a one-time, brief exam.
Why will this increase the backlog? A one-time exam is not likely to result in findings of certain long-term conditions like lupus or multiple sclerosis. This can result in a wrongful denial, leading to an appeal that could have been avoided if the long-term physician’s evidence was given more weight during the initial approval process.
How can I better ensure my application is approved?
Those who are applying for benefits can increase the chances of success by seeking legal counsel. An experienced attorney can provide aid during the initial approval process as well as during an appeal of the application is denied.