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SSDI backlog rising, while the approval rate is falling

The line began to form when Gerald Ford was president. The president who so loved Colorado ski vacations left office back in January of 1977. That’s when the backlog of Social Security disability cases waiting to be heard on appeals began.

All these years later and the backlog is growing faster than ever. The Washington Post did an in-depth report on the problems at the Social Security Administration and found that it is nearly a million cases behind.  

The Post calls it the “backlog of backlogs — a queue of waiting Americans larger than the populations of six different states.” It’s more than a bureaucratic snafu, of course. While those Americans wait for approval of needed benefits, many of them must deal with deep financial problems after losing their jobs, exhausting their savings and selling off assets in order to keep the lights on.

The newspaper notes “the experience of waiting in the backlog can be especially painful — because disability applicants typically have little or no income while they wait.”

The backlog is a threat not only to the financial well-being of applicants, but their physical health as well. One Social Security judge said she had two claimants die in just one month while waiting to have their appeals heard.

The process of applying for SSDI begins with filing a claim. That claim is then examined by the SSA. At this point in the process, 68 percent of applications are denied, the Post says. They can appeal the denial of benefits, however.

Because appeals are so important, many claimants turn to attorneys experienced with the gathering and preparing needed documentation, filing paperwork, SSA deadlines, and not least of all, the procedures and law involved in the appeals hearings conducted by the administrative law judges.

Another reason many people are working with SSDI attorneys: the approval rate of benefits appeals is dropping. It’s down from about 62 percent several years ago to 44 percent today. “…a marked decline,” the newspaper notes.

We will have more on the SSDI backlog, approval rates and appeals in future blog posts.

Source: Washington Post, "‘It’s just maddening. There’s nothing you can do," accessed Oct. 27, 2014

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