The Social Security Administration updated about 170,000 Americans on the status of their disability benefits in December. According to one study, the average waiting time for a decision was seven months, the longest in 14 years.recent US Facts report.
Jeff Nesbit, deputy communications officer for Social Security, said years of underfunding meant the agency "can't keep up with demand for services and our annual increases in fixed costs."
Disability determination services, which assess disability claims, have been hit particularly hard, Nesbit wrote in aSeptember 2022 note, "due to historically high turnover as the workload becomes less reasonable with fewer employees."
How long does it take to process my disability claim?
Almost 8 million Americansreceive monthly disability benefits from Social Security each month. To qualify, you must have a condition that prevents you from working for at least a year or is likely to result in your death.
Funds are primarily spent through Social Security Disability Insurance (SDI). Another program, Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is aimed at older people with limited financial resources. (SSI is funded by the Treasury Department but administered by the SSA.)
The earliest you can receive an SSDI payment is five months after Social Security determines you're eligible. Therefore, the longer it takes to process an application, the longer it will take for you to start receiving benefits.
The average wait time for an initial decision is now seven months, three months longer than in 2019, according to USA Facts.
"These are people who can't work, so not having access to funds for so long is a real struggle - especially during high inflation," he said.Joel Eskovitz, Director of Social Security and Savings atAARP Public Policy Institute, he told CNET. "You can't be gainfully employed while you apply — selling things online or driving for Uber could put you over the edge."
a loved onetwo of the three candidatestheir initial application is denied, according to USA Facts, which also found that the appeals process has a success rate of less than 50-50 (47%) and can take years.
According to a 2020 report, about 8,000 disability claimants file for bankruptcy each year, and 10,000 people still die while waiting to hear about their claimState Accounting Office.
Why does it take so long to process a disability claim?
Nesbit said staff shortages helped delay the assessment of claims. The hiring freeze imposed in March 2022 has been lifted, he added, but headcount is still at a 25-year low.
"If we lose staff, our service deteriorates," Nesbit said. "As a result, the public is experiencing service delays and long waits for disability decisions," he said. An ongoing shortage "will make it even harder to fix our current delays and increase public wait time for the service."
In August, the backlog reached 929,000, more than 25% more than September 2021.
Although Republican lawmakers have tabled proposalsreduce pension costs, President Joe Biden requested $14.8 billion for the agency, up $1.4 billion from a year earlier.
Kathleen Romig, director of social security and disability policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said increasing funding is critical for the agency to replace thousands of departed staff and modernize an "old-fashioned technology infrastructure."
"Just standing still is unacceptable," Romig wrote.in a November 18 blog post.
Andrew Biggs was Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration under President George W. Bush. He said the system is inherently complex in many ways.
When monthly disability insurance benefits were introduced in 1956, Congress wanted to prevent fraud and give people every chance to defend themselves, he told CNET.
"People have tried to simplify it, but they've faced obstacles from Congress and the disability community," said Biggs, now a senior fellow at theAmerican Economic Institute. "It's a very sensitive subject for obvious reasons."
Most people associate social security with retirement, he added. “But disability is much more work. There are so many cases that are not clear," he said.
The pandemic led to further delays, although there have beenfewer applications. In part, Eskovitz said, that's because field offices are closed and agents can't access sensitive information from home.
"A disability claim is generally a tedious process with a lot of paperwork," he said.
Leia:How to apply for social security benefits in the event of disability
Can Social Security expedite my disability claim?
While the wait can be long for most applicants, the agency automatically advances some categories of claims.
Compassionate Allow List (CAL):Social Security Recipienthundreds of conditionswho may apply for expediting, including aggressive cancers, neurodegenerative and immune system disorders, and rare diseases affecting children. (If your condition is not listed, you cansubmit for review.)
Assumed disability:If you are applying for SSI and you have a severe physical or mental disability, the agency may determine that you have a "Presumed Disability." This allows you to receive benefits for up to six months while you wait.Disability assessment servicesmake a statement.
Conditions of ParticipationThese include complete vision or hearing loss, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, end-stage kidney disease, and terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of six months or less.
Service Members:If you're a veteran who the Department of Veterans Affairs has classified as "100% P&T" -- with a permanent and complete disability -- Social Security treats your claim "as a high priority workload," according tothe agency's website.
Fast tracking is available for veterans who have sustained a disability while on active duty.on or after October 1, 2001. (The injury does not have to have occurred during the game.)
Are there other ways to expedite my disability claim?
Social Security can also expedite your application if you are in extreme financial difficulty. The agency considers the complainant ain dire need, or DRND if you are unable to obtain food, shelter or medical care due to lack of resources.
If you think you have a DRND, notify management by phone or aLetter of Urgent Needdetails of your situation.
How long does a disability appeal take?
If your original application is denied, you typically have four options to appeal the decision.
- Review of Disability Assessment Services
- A hearing by an administrative judge
- A review by the Board of Appeal of the Social Security Administration
- File a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Justice
Each step must be performed in order. The initial re-examination by the Disability Assessment Services is subject to a delay which is affecting processing times and the average waiting time is now almost five months.
How can I expedite a disability claim?
If you are appealing a decision on your disability claim, Social Security must give you at least 75 days' notice before a scheduled hearing.
However, you may waive this notice by completing aWaiver of timely written hearing. While this may bring the appointment forward, it also means you have less time to prepare your case.
You can also make an inquirydecision on file (OTR)by an administrative judge, who points out that you think the evidence supports "an entirely favorable decision".
You will be required to submit a summary prior to your scheduled hearing that includes relevant evidence about your disability and may also include a completed OTRchecklist.
You can start the application processSSDI hereeSS here. For more details on the functions, contact yourOmbudsman on site.
Is there any way to speed up a disability claim? ›
Another option to speed up the appeal process is to ask for an on-the-record (OTR) decision by an administrative law judge. An OTR request indicates that you believe the evidence in your file clearly supports your disability application, without the need for you or expert witnesses to make the case at a hearing.Why is my Social Security Disability decision taking so long? ›
Because there are so many applications that are filed each year, it takes time for the SSA to process and review each one. This review time can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months on average. Most people have their initial application denied. It doesn't mean that your case is over and that you should give up.What's the fastest you can get approved for disability? ›
Generally, it takes about 3 to 5 months to get a decision. However, the exact time depends on how long it takes to get your medical records and any other evidence needed to make a decision. * How does Social Security make the decision? We send your application to a state agency that makes disability decisions.How do you answer a disability claim question? ›
- Write clearly and legibly. Avoid erasures as much as possible. ...
- Do not leave any section of the form blank (unless otherwise specified). ...
- Give consistent answers. ...
- Answer the questions truthfully. ...
- Follow the instructions on the form.
While you wait for disability benefits to be approved, consider seeking assistance through other local, state, and federal support programs. These may include: Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)How long does an expedited SSDI claim take? ›
For some CAL conditions, you can sometimes get disability almost immediately because Social Security requires only minimal objective medical evidence and will sometimes grant approval based on a diagnosis alone. This makes it easier to approve these claims quickly—sometimes in as little as ten days.