Newark residents with a disabling medical condition may be somewhere in the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits. However, they may be discouraged to hear that the wait time for those applying for SSD benefits to get a hearing to determine whether they qualify for benefits has hit an average record of 596 days. To put things in perspective, that’s 19.5 months. In comparison, in 2012 the wait time averaged at 353 days.
This situation has also exacerbated the backlog of those waiting for a hearing. The backlog now sits at 1.1 million. In comparison, in 2010 that number sat at 700,000. According to the Social Security Administration, the reasons for the background include the facts that there is an increasing number of “Baby Boomers” who are reaching advanced ages in which they may become disabled, that during the recession more claims were filed and that the SSA is understaffed.
The one silver lining is that individuals who do end up qualifying for SSD benefits can get these benefits going back to five months from their initial application. Unfortunately, though, most of those applying for SSD benefits cannot work and do not have any other source of financial support. Moreover, in the end, only around 37 percent of those who submit applications for SSD benefits ultimately get them.
When a person applies for SSD benefits, only about 33 percent of them are approved via their initial application. If their initial application is denied, they must seek a “reconsideration.” On average, it takes four months for a reconsideration decision to be made, and only 12 percent of applicants are approved at this stage. Following reconsideration, an applicant has 60 days to ask for a hearing. The time it takes starting from when an applicant requested a hearing to the date the judge issued a decision can take 19.5 months on average. As you can see, the appeals process can take a long time.
However, people should not be discouraged from applying for SSD benefits. These benefits are meant to be a financial safety net for those who have medical conditions that prevent them from working. However, given the high rate of denials and the arduous appeals process, it can help to work with an attorney who can assist in the preparation of the applicant’s claim for benefits and can represent the applicant throughout the appeals process if necessary.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, “Wait time for federal disability benefits appeal hits a record,” Kathleen Pender, Aug. 21, 2017