It is no secret that there is a significant backlog of Social Security Disability claims in the Social Security system. Unfortunately, many of the people who are funneled into this backlog will wait months, if not years, before having their cases decided by an administrative law judge. To make matters worse, the wait for Social Security benefits seems to be increasing as the SSA struggles with ways to manage the massive backlog of cases that they are experiencing.
The SSA had some very good plans to bail itself out of its current backlog. They were going to hire new administrative law judges, build new hearing centers and implement new technologies to speed up the disability appeal process. Unfortunately, many of these plans had to be put on hold due to budget cuts that were implemented by the federal government. Now, the backlog of disability cases isn't getting better, but worse.
The SSA doesn't seem to be processing Social Security Disability claims any faster, although more claims are coming in than ever before. This creates a scenario for disaster and wait times that could take years. The mounting number of disability claims combined with the ever-expanding backlog is causing some disability applicants to wait well over two years before their disability benefits can begin. While 270 days is the “ideal goal” that the SSA aims for, 369 days is the actual average they are currently experiencing. However, even though the “average” wait is 369 days, there are some applicants who wait two years or more before being awarded the Social Security Disability benefits.
The significant wait times definitely not only cause frustration on the part of the disability applicants, but also put strain on the judges who are hearing these cases. Judges can only hear so many cases per month. If judges are pushed to hear more cases than is reasonable, hearing outcomes may not be as accurate as they should be. Without proper attention to detail, people who deserve benefits may be denied or those who do not deserve benefits may be approved at the taxpayer's expense.
Fortunately, many Social Security Disability applicants can increase their chances of avoiding the appeal process altogether. The services of a qualified Social Security Disability advocate or attorney may increase the chances of receiving an approval at the initial stage of the disability claim process, thereby avoiding the need for a frustrating wait to appear before an administrative law judge. If an applicant doesn't want to wait a year or more before they see their first Social Security Disability payment, the services of a professional, such as a disability attorney or advocate, are definitely in order.