The most challenging part of the Social Security disability process is the long wait times for disability claimants to have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. From the time an application is filed to the date of a hearing, claimants often wait years. There are multiple reasons for the incredible wait times.
The Number Of Disabled Workers Has Increased
Because of an expanded pool of workers from the baby boomer generation and after, the number of people qualifying for Social Security disability benefits has increased. According to the Social Security Administration, “More women have joined the workforce in the past few decades and have worked consistently enough to qualify for benefits if they become disabled.” More eligible workers has resulted in more disability applications.
Many Initial Claims Are Denied
Although there are about nine million Americans currently receiving Social Security disability benefits, many of these beneficiaries were denied when they first applied. Statistics show only about a fourth of all disability applicants were approved when they first applied. If denied, the claimants must file a request for reconsideration. If the reconsideration is denied, then a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge may be requested.
The initial evaluations of disability cases are problematic and may often result in wrongful denials. The reasons for incorrect denials are numerous: missing medical records, lack of medical opinions from treating doctors, and administrative error. The chances of getting approved for Social Security disability benefits improves when you have your day in court and can persuade an Administrative Law Judge why you are disabled. Your chance of being approved at a hearing increases with trained attorney representation.
There Is A Shortage Of Disability Judges
It has long been known that there are a shortage of Social Security Administration ALJs (Administrative Law Judges) to conduct disability hearings. That same problem remains today. In fact, the Social Security Administrations’ deputy commissioner for disability and adjudication review has stated that the agency hasn’t had enough money to hire more judges and is short about 400 judges.
Over One Million People are Waiting for Disability Hearings
According to a 2016 article by Kery Murakami, the Social Security Administration had a backlog of over one millions cases waiting for a disability hearing. Sadly, the incredible wait times has resulted in some disability applicants actually dying before their claim is decided.
Average Wait Times For A Disability Hearing Is Well Over A Year
For Indiana disability hearing offices, the average wait time is over a year. For Indianapolis, the average wait time is 17.5 months. It is 15 months for Fort Wayne, 19 months for Valparaiso, and 18 months for Evansville. Keep in mind that these wait times are from when the hearing was requested – not from when the initial application was filed – until the date of the hearing.
Hearings Are Not Scheduled More Quickly Unless Special Circumstances Exist
In limited situations, the Social Security Administration will expedite the scheduling of a hearing if the individual is in “dire need” or qualifies for “critical” status. For further clarification of dire need and critical status, see the following article on average wait time for disability hearings.
Contact Keller & Keller
For a free consultation about your Social Security disability claim, call 1-800-253-5537 or fill out a contact form today.