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A Look at Issues and Delays in the Social Security Disability Appeals Process

When you first apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the chances of your claim being denied are high.  This has nothing to do with the merits of your application, meaning whether or not you are really disabled. The reason for this is because the majority of all applications are denied.

1088940_2_annual_reports__3At this point, you can apply for reconsideration.  The first reconsideration attempt is done in writing and it is typically a peer review process where another worker at the same office will determine if their coworker at that the same pay grade properly denied your application.  This is almost always denied again.  You can actually apply for another reconsideration, and that will typically be denied as well. 

After you have been denied initially, and a couple more times, you can get a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), who is supposed to be an independent judge, but is really an employee of the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) and typically renders a decision in favor of the SSA to deny benefits. This is especially true of unrepresented claimants.  The deck is often stacked against unrepresented claimants, and this is why you should speak with an experienced Boston disability attorney to improve your chances of obtaining a successful award of benefits.  The sooner you have an attorney in the process, the better, and this may actually reduce the total amount of time it takes to get benefits, because your attorney will know how to file all necessary forms and what type of evidence to submit.

A recent article from the Batesville Herald-Tribune looks at how long the wait can be and how it is affecting disabled Americans and their families. One person interviewed as part of this article injured his eye so badly that it had to be surgically removed.  He is in pain everyday, and that pain is so severe that all he can do is lay down for hours and close his other eye to deal with the pain.  He said that when the pain is most severe, he lives his life in two hour blocks, trying to pass the time till the pain subsides, even if just for a little while.  The SSA denied his application and said he should be at work, because he is not disabled.

He is in the process of appealing that and waiting for a hearing before an ALJ.  The average wait time is now 525 days, and the wait is getting longer, not shorter. Four years ago, the average wait was around 360 days, which is approximately six months less.

This particular claimant worked for the state police as a videographer.  With only one eye and the inability to use his other eye for much of the day, is easy to understand how he is no longer able to do that job.  However, it should also be easy to see that he cannot work at any job, since all he can do is lay down and hope the pain goes away, but it will take a hearing before the ALJ to convince them of the obvious, and, unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Appealing for disability benefits brings arduous wait, May 25, 2016, The Herald-Tribune, By Kery Murakami

More Blog Entries:

Mabry v. Colvin: Social Security Disability for Mental Illness, March 27, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog