While Social Security disability benefits are an important resource for many seriously disabled Americans, one of the unfortunate realities of applying for SSDI is that it is often a waiting game. The reality is that many people who apply for disability benefits are not approved the first time around, and many of those who are still often have to wait many months to receive approval.
SSDI applicants whose applications are rejected the first time around have the ability to appeal their case, and there are several rounds of appeal available. In our last post, we spoke about the first two levels of appeal: reconsideration and judicial hearing. It is at the level of judicial hearing that there is a particularly large backlog.
According to sources, there is currently a total backlog of 990,399 hearing cases at present. Needless to say, the administrative law judges responsible for making those decisions have had significant pressure placed upon them to reduce the backlog. In our last post, we mentioned that one of the negative consequences of this is that some judges have resorted to rubber stamping claims. This is a bad situation not only for the program, but also for SSDI applicants who end up being unfairly turned away but who truly are entitled to benefits.
While we would love to say that working with an attorney guarantees a SSDI applicant will not have to endure unreasonable wait times or deal with multiple appeals, this is not always the case. What an experienced attorney can do is make sure that an application decision is not unduly delayed by ensuring that all relevant documentation and other information is included in the application from the start. An experienced attorney will also know when an applicant may qualify for expedited consideration depending on his or her circumstances. And, of course, having a strong advocate in the appeal process can help in making sure one presents the strongest case possible.
Source: The Washington Post, “The biggest backlog in the government,” David Fahrenthold, Oct. 18, 2014.