A year ago, we wrote a blog post detailing the Social Security Disability Insurance case backlog and what it meant for people submitting SSDI claims. (You can read it here.)
At that time, the backlog for SSDI appeals was a shocking 526 days. This meant that people who were appealing the denial of their SSDI claim were forced to wait more than a year for their case to be heard. The number of people waiting reached 1.1 million.
We predicated that the backlog was likely to only get worse, due to a hiring freeze that prevented the federal administration from hiring new judges to hear the appeals. Unfortunately, a year later, it seems that this is the case.
A recent article in The Washington Post sheds more light on the situation.
According to The Washington Post, the worsening backlog can be attributed to several factors: few judges, a lack of support staff, and regulatory changes.
While the Social Security Administration’s budget has remained roughly the same since 2010, the number of people receiving benefits has increased by 7 million. This means that there are more cases to hear, with no budget to hire more judges or staff to help them get through the backlog faster.
New SSDI regulations instituted in the past year have also made the process harder for claimants. One such rule, which went into effect for new claims as of March 27, 2017, revised how the Social Security Administration considered medical evidence. This rule removed the priority given to opinions from the claimant’s treating physician—the doctor the claimant saw most often for their care. Going forward, evidence from all medical sources will be given equal weight. This can be a blow to claims when treating physicians and SSA consultants disagree.
In addition to lack of funding and changes in regulation, the backlog can be attributed to a slowdown on the part of judges. Following a scandal in West Virginia—in which a SSDI judge was found to have taken $600,000 in bribes in exchange for approving cases—judges have been more careful. The average number of cases a judge sees each week has decreased from 12 to 10. Spread across the country, this small slowdown has added hundreds of cases to the backlog. By summer of 2017, the wait time had increased to 596 days.
The Washington Post article is an important one because it shines a spotlight on the very real human cost of this backlog: 18,701 people died in the past year while waiting for their disability appeals to be heard. The number of deaths increased 15 percent over a two-year period, from $8,699 in 2016 to 10,002 in 2017.
Joe Stewart, a claimant profiled in the article, said that another denial would be a “death sentence.”
As distressing as this news is, we are glad to see The Washington Post continuing to report on the SSDI claim backlog. Our Social Security Disability Insurance attorneys are passionate about helping injured people, and our firm believes that this is critical information. Our legislature needs to hear that the system is not working and that Americans who desperately need help have been abandoned.
If any injury or illness is preventing you from working, this news might make you concerned; you don’t want to have to wait months or even years for the compensation you need now. However, all is not lost. It’s important to remember that this backlog involves the appeals process. This means that the long wait time will not apply if your claim is successful.
That being said, there are many pitfalls that can result in the denial of your claim, including even small mistakes, like incomplete paperwork or evidence not submitted on time for your hearing. For that reason, we encourage you to talk to an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer about your situation. (You can also read helpful information about the claims process on our blog.)
Having the help of a qualified attorney will increase your odds of success—not to mention reduce your stress and worry during this difficult time.
Casper & Casper is here to help you navigate the complex, often confusing Social Security Disability process. We will do everything in our power to get your claim approved the first time, so you get benefits when you need them.
Call Casper & Casper today to schedule a free consultation at one of our offices in Cincinnati, Hamilton, Middletown, or Dayton, Ohio.