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Backlog Continues for Social Security Disability Benefits

Posted by Louis B. Lusk | Mar 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

Backlog Continues for Social Security Disability Benefits

Are you tired of waiting on your disability claim? For several years now, critics have cited the looming backlog of social security disability benefits. The Wall Street Journal describes this backlog as a result of “high unemployment, an aging population, and a combination of mismanagement and potential fraud within the system.” An article in USA Today echoed this assumption, explaining that, with a nation of aging baby boomers and the lingering effects of the recession, “millions are applying for disability benefits, and Social Security can't work through the claims fast enough.” What are the implications of this backlog? If you or a loved one are waiting on social security disability benefits, you may be waiting quite awhile. And these long wait times have negative effects for elder persons, the terminally ill, and others who rely on these benefits for income and care. What Causes the Delay in Processing Benefits? Typically, first-time benefits applicants are denied because of a lack of evidence of a disability (i.e., they haven't provided enough documentation that they're actually unable to work, and thus in need of these benefits). After a first rejection, applicants can appeal. After the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies an appeal, applicants must wait for a hearing. These hearings can be confusing and intimidating, and applicants often have to wait a long time before they can even see a judge. USA Today reported that applicants in Arizona, for example, wait an average of 10 to 11 months. The long wait time is in large part a result of a complex benefits system that seeks to prevent fraud, ensuring that applicants are, in fact, disabled. As well, nearly 11 million people currently receive disability benefits, and more money is paid out than comes in through payroll deductions. In the past couple of years, the SSA has made a notable effort to take care of some of its older, lingering cases. As a result, the average wait time for benefits has decreased. But still, in Arizona the average wait time for benefits is 316 days–nearly a year. And at the end of 2012, approximately 750,000 Americans nationwide were waiting for a benefits hearing. This long wait time can have serious implications for disabled persons in need of care. Effects on Injured and Chronically Ill Applicants In the USA Today article mentioned above, the newspaper emphasized that the very purpose of the Social Security disability program is to “help people who get sick or injured and can no longer work.” Yet, a surprising number of Americans who are in those conditions are left waiting–sometimes for years–for access to these benefits. For example, USA Today described a woman in Arizona suffering from a neurological disorder. She recently waited more than 2 years for her benefits to be approved. In the meantime, she was unable to support herself financially and moved back in with her parents. Similarly, the Wall Street Journal described a case in which a hotel manager in Maryland was robbed and shot, and as a result was unable to work. By late 2011, he had been waiting nearly four years for benefits. The long wait time has more serious implications for those who in need benefits in order to survive. Effects on Terminally Ill Applicants In late 2011, the Wall Street Journal ran an article decrying the backlog of disability benefits and its effects on the terminally ill. The story explained that the SSA created a special coding system, known as “DXDI,” for cases in which the applicant actually died while waiting for benefits. Between 2005 and late 2011, the SSA designated over 15,000 cases DXDI. As a tragic example, the article described a 2009 case in which a former mason, Mr. Dexter E. Penny, died while waiting for his benefits. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in February 2009, and the SSA denied his benefits upon initial application. His appeal was later denied because he “didn't provide enough medical records.” Penny appealed to a local Maryland Legal Aid office. While his attorney searched for additional medical records in order to have his claim processed, Penny's condition worsened and he passed away. It was not until December 2010, nine days after Penny's death, that the SSA sent a letter granting benefits. If you or a loved one are waiting on social security disability benefits, you shouldn't have to wait alone. An experienced attorney can discuss your case with you today. See Related Blog Posts: Top Four Reasons SSD Claims Are Denied SSA Fast-Tracking Rare Disease Claims

About the Author

Louis B. Lusk

About Louis B. Lusk – Disability Attorney Attorney Louis B. Lusk has helped thousands of disabled individuals recover Social Security disability and SSI disability benefits.  He is an active member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant's Representatives (NOSSCR), an organizat...

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