Overall, wait times for Social Security Disability hearings have grown beyond reasonable limits. This isn’t the fault of applicants or the staff who take those hearings. The number of applications received per year is on the decline, and judges who work hearings are handling as many cases as they can. However, this is little comfort to those waiting an average of two years just to find out if they qualify for much-needed assistance.
Pain and Suffering
The Star-Telegram recently focused on local applicants to highlight the troubles that these waiting lists cause for individuals and families. In the case of one couple, John and Mina, they spent decades working and paying into the system. When John began to suffer from nerve damage, he simply turned his attention to finding work he could still handle. However, as his condition progressed, they finally had to reach out for help. His application, like most, was initially declined. He applied for a hearing in August and is expected to be waiting 12 to 18 months for a hearing.
The couple has already had to cash in John's 401(k) to pay off the house and credit cards so they had some security during the process. Mina is still working, but rising medical and prescription costs are overtaking the lead they tried to secure. The Star-Telegram also referenced other cases where basic utilities have already had to be shut off. Another applicant has even had to rely on her ex-husband’s help to keep her bills paid. Unfortunately, 7,400 people on waiting lists last year had already died before seeing their hearing date.
Problems At The Top
According to the Social Security Administration’s own stats, the system isn't suffering from increased applications. Applications have been on a steady decline since they reached a peak of 2.9 million in 2010, and the number of new applications in 2017 was the lowest it has been since 2006. Additionally, the system isn't suffering excessive numbers of unqualified claims, as only 38 percent of the claims heard last year were denied. However, wait times are still increasing, and it comes down to federal funding. Congress continues to find reasons to allocate money elsewhere rather than fund Social Security. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), who sits as chairman on the subcommittee focused on Social Security, has held multiple hearings attempting to address this problem that he considers "unacceptable." Without the approval of Congress and with the Commissioner’s office of the Social Security Administration still vacant, it is an uphill battle.
Applicants for disability benefits face an enormous amount of stress and a complex system of demands. By the time many turn to the Social Security system, they have exhausted all other options and are already in a dangerous position. You need help from a lawyer who will see you through the disability hearing process without adding extra strain to your life. Contact Chad Jones Law today to discuss your options.