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Disability Claims Are Taking Longer and Longer to Be Processed

Oct. 12, 2022

As anyone who has had to deal with the Social Security Administration (SSA) knows, sometimes the waiting is the hardest part. Before the pandemic, it was bad, and now even six months after the SSA has opened up field offices on a limited basis, it's much, much worse. In every statistic you can think of, the process continues to add more wait times for Americans who need help. As a recent Washington Post article details, times for speaking to someone on the phone are up compared to pre-pandemic times, office visits, in places where you can even get to, have ground to a halt, with some people waiting hours and hours just to get inside the building. And for disability appeals? Forget about it. There are over 1 million applications pending, and getting a final decision that requires a hearing can take over a year. 

That’s a year with no healthcare, a year with no money, a year with no help. While it seems that politicians are concerned about the easy fixes, like providing water and bathrooms to those waiting outside local offices in the hot sun or soon-to-be cold winters, we haven’t seen much success in lowering the time between application for disability benefits and a final decision. In my practice, the hardest thing is not helping my deserving clients get benefits, it’s telling them that, even with an attorney, they are likely going to have to wait a year and sometimes longer depending on where they live, to actually have their case heard by a judge and a decision made. As the old adage goes, justice delayed is justice denied. I continue to work with our organization of disability attorneys to put pressure on congress to enact new measures and, importantly, funding to the SSA to help with this problem, but this is the reality for the foreseeable future. 

The way I see it, particularly for SSDI (disabled workers) cases, these folks have paid into the system their whole working lives, and denying them a meaningful process to gain access to those benefits through delay and inaction is stealing from them, plain and simple. In the time it takes for an application to be approved in some cases, a person can lose their home, their car, and burn through any savings they have. By then, what is a monthly check going to do to restore them to the life they had worked for until they came down with a terminal disease or a disabling condition? 

We have to do better.