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How Long Will I Have to Wait for Social Security to Consider My Disability Claim?

 Posted on February 16, 2017 in Already Applied for Disability Benefits

b2ap3_thumbnail_disability-claim-Chicago.jpgOne of the biggest problems in applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is the waiting. It takes more than three months, on average, to get an initial decision on an application for disability benefits. Additionally, only about one-third of applicants are approved the first time around. The remainder must go through an extended appeals process through the Social Security Administration's internal hearing system.

More Than 1.1 Million Americans Waiting for Disability Hearing

Just how long is the wait for an appeal? Nearly one-and-a-half years, according to a September 2016 report published by the SSA's inspector general. As of May 2016, SSA had over 1.1 million disability hearings pending, with an average wait time of 526 days. This represents an approximately 10 percent increase in wait times from the previous year and a nearly 50 percent increase over a four-year period.

David Fahrenthold, a writer for The Washington Post, quipped in a 2014 article on Social Security's disability backlog that the agency's administrative law judges “fell behind when Gerald Ford was president” and have still to catch up. Fahrenthold quoted one SSA judge in Miami who said two applicants had died in the past month while waiting for a hearing. And even a death did not clear one of the cases—a hearing was still necessary because one of the deceased applicant's children was eligible to receive any benefits awarded postmortem to her mother.

Trump Order May Further Aggravate Backlog

Last May, SSA Deputy Commissioner Theresa Gruber told a Senate subcommittee the agency wanted to hire more judges to deal with the growing backlog. At the time, SSA employed approximately 1,500 administrative law judges nationwide. Gruber said she hoped to increase that number to 1,900 by 2018.

Unfortunately, presidential politics may get in the way, at least in the short term. After taking office in January, President Donald J. Trump issued a memorandum to all federal agencies ordering a “freeze on the hiring of civilian employees” until mid-April. The memorandum said this temporary freeze was necessary to give the new administration time to develop and implement a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition.”

A number of former Social Security officials are concerned, however, that any delay in hiring new ALJs will only make the disability backlog that much harder to handle. Michael Astrue, who served as SSA commissioner under former president George W. Bush, told Bloomberg News the hiring freeze is “going to be pretty devastating.”

Astrue added that SSA's problems were not the creation of the Trump administration, however, blaming a “long-running failure by the personnel office” at the agency to “efficiently vet candidates” for judge positions.

Do Not Wait for Social Security Alone

If you have applied for disability benefits and are still waiting for a hearing, you may feel powerless. Work with an experienced Chicago Social Security disability attorney who will make sure your case does not get lost in the backlog. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, to schedule a consultation with us today.






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