The second step in the Social Security disability appeals process entails the Social Security applicant appearing at a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If a disability claimant is denied benefits upon their initial application, and again upon reconsideration, they will submit a request for this hearing and then wait – likely a year or more – for their hearing to be scheduled. At the time they file their hearing request, they’ve likely already waited 6 months or more for their application to progress through the first two stages of the process.
The main reason for this extended wait for a hearing is due to an increased number of individuals applying for Social Security disability benefits, the majority of which have their applications denied. This is likely in large part due to an aging population and high rates of unemployment. Thus, there became a large backlog of claims waiting for their disability hearing to be scheduled. In September of 2011, over 770,000 applicants were in line for a hearing nationwide.
Sadly, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has even added a new code to their system, indicating that the disability applicant in question died before they had a chance to have a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Since 2005, they have had to utilize this DXDI code over 15,000 times – indicating that more than 15,000 Americans lost their lives while waiting to receive benefits that there’s a good chance they were entitled to.
Unfortunately, there’s no sign that this backlog will be reduced anytime soon. The SSA is currently undergoing funding cuts and a hiring freeze that may even cause the waiting time for a hearing, and the resulting backlog, to increase.
However, the SSA does offer a program that allows some claimants to expedite the processing of their disability claims. Those with certain serious conditions that are included on the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance list can have their disability applications approved with a minimal amount of medical information, versus the extensive medical documentation that’s required in most other claims.
Although the SSA should be reviewing every new claim to determine if it’s eligible to be processed as a Compassionate Allowance, this doesn’t always happen, or at least not in a timely manner. Therefore, it’s important that a Social Security applicant or their disability attorney informs the SSA that a claimant’s condition is included on the Compassionate Allowance list as soon as possible. Many disability claimants may not even be aware that this program exists. Social Security lawyers are familiar with the ins and outs of the disability claims process, and hiring one can ensure that no loophole that could benefit your claim is missed.