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Social Security Disability Application Changes You Need to Know

The Biggest Frustration in Getting Benefits: Wait time

One of the biggest frustrations with pursuing Social Security Disability benefits is the amount of time it takes to get a decision and, hopefully, begin getting benefits. This struggle has plagued applicants and their social security disability attorneys for decades.

In most claims, there are three stages to a claim for disability.

  1. There is the initial application a claimant files.
  2. If denied, the second stage is an appeal called a reconsideration.
  3. If an applicant is denied a second time, the third stage is to file a request for a hearing.

Traditionally, it was the third step that took the longest. However, that has shifted in the last year.

A Backlog of Applications is Clogging the System

An enormous backlog at the Social Security Administration (SSA) is causing delayed initial application decisions. In years past, a decision on the initial application could be made in 180 days or less. Currently, claims take about a year for an initial decision.

To alleviate the backlog, the Office of Hearing Operations (OHO), which oversees social security disability hearings, is reassigning several employees to focus on improving decision turnaround time and alleviating the backlog. These employees’ duties will include:

  • Reviewing claims
  • Gathering required medical records
  • Preparing decisions on pending claims

If an applicant is denied at the initial stage and at the reconsideration stage, they must request a hearing before an administrative law judge. In the fiscal year 2021, the SSA was projected to hold over 370,000 hearings on disability claims. The average processing time for each was 310 days. Their goal was to improve that processing time to 250 days by September of 2022.

Unfortunately, this goal was not reached.

But the current average processing time is far better than previous years. In 2017 and 2018, processing time averaged at 605 days. The improvements in recent years are due to the increased number of administrative law judges and the increased number of hearings held by each. It is also due in part to the reduced number of hearings that are currently pending.

In 2016, for example, there were 1,087,000 hearings pending. Currently, that number is less than 350,000, according to SSA and OHO. With the reduced number of hearings and the increased number of hearings being held, OHO has been able to advance cases at the hearing level much faster than in years prior.

Hearing Times Have Decreased but Initial Application Stages Are Taking Far Longer

Cases are progressing faster at the hearing level than they have in years past. But currently, applications are taking much longer at the initial stage. Thus, this does not help to alleviate the frustration with the system. Ideally, with the above measures being taken, employees can work to get claims at all levels to be processed faster.

If you have been fighting for social security disability benefits or have not filed because of the frustrations with doing so, you should seek out an experienced social security disability attorney for help. With the right firm, your claim can be presented in the most clear and concise way to help ensure the likelihood that you are awarded benefits as early as possible. Contact Black & Jones Attorneys at Law for a free consultation today. awarded benefits as early as possible. Contact Black & Jones Attorneys at Law for a free consultation today. Call us at (815) 967-9000 or fill out the form here.