Rather than reduce the 1.5 year wait for a Social Security Disability Hearing, the Social Security Administration is adding a step to the application process that is expected to add six months to the wait time for most applicants.
More than 43,000 applicants await a Social Security Disability hearing in Massachusetts, where a backlog of 10,000 cases has created an average wait of more than 450 days for a court hearing, according to the most recent statistics. Unfortunately, most states score even worse, with the average wait time nationwide at more than 530 days.
Seeking early representation by an experienced SSDI lawyers in Boston can best protect your rights and streamline the lengthy application process, which is largely designed to discourage qualified applicants from obtaining all of the benefits to which they are entitled. Funding received last year by the Social Security Administration aimed at tackling the hearing backlog has met with only moderate success, reducing the national average wait time by 67 days.
Reconsideration Makes Longer Wait for Disability Applicants
Of course, government shutdowns, administrative changes and routine bureaucratic ineptness can increase both the wait and the frustration. In fact, the Social Security Administration made a number of changes for 2019, including reinstatement of the reconsideration step in the application claims process in a number of states. The SSA had removed the reconsideration step from the application process in 10 states in 1999, saying it could save money and increase efficiencies.
Not it is reinitiating the reconsideration step. In other words, if you can’t speed up the process, add steps to create the illusion of movement.
Even SSA commissioner Nancy Berryhill thought it a pointless bureaucratic delay. She signed a letter along with 11 members of Congress arguing that “there is little evidence to show that reconsideration is a meaningful step in the disability appeals process.”
While select applicants may benefit from the additional review, most disability rights advocates contend it will just increase delays and make for longer claims processing. Both the initial rejection and the reconsideration are handled by the Social Security Administration, where more than two-thirds of applicants are rejected at each stage of the process. It’s not until an applicant obtains a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge — usually some two years after being forced to apply for benefits to deal with a disability — that the first impartial review of an applicant’s case is conducted.
The SSA rejects two-thirds of claims after the initial application process. Of those, 87 percent will still move on to the appeals process after being rejected during reconsideration. The extra time is expected to add 3-6 months processing time.
Timely SSDI Benefit Awards in Massachusetts
Massachusetts was only spared reintroduction of the reconsideration process because we were never spared the bureaucratic headache in the first place.
Thus, the typical applicant has already been denied twice, adding an extra delay of about 7 months, before beginning the wait for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. While our Massachusetts SSDI lawyers know most applicants have obtained professional representation by the time they reach the hearing stage, fewer than 1 in 5 consult professional help at the outset of the application process.
Applying for Social Security Disability benefits is a time consuming and complex process. Seeking professional advice and guidance from the start is the best thing you can do to reduce your stress, and your wait. Appealing denial of an Administrative Law Judge’s decision can add additional time to the wait to secure benefits. By building a solid, comprehensive claim for benefits form the start, you can reduce the financial and emotional stress that typically defines such lengthy waits.
Your initial application will be filed with the Social Security Administration but routed to one of two Massachusetts Disability Determination Services offices, located in Boston and Worcester. Having a comprehensive medical claim can improve chances for approval. This includes an SSA 3368 medical report form, which will list medical sources for obtaining additional records and documentation, should such be desired by the examiner.
Too often, insufficient proof is offered during this stage, which can otherwise significantly reduce wait times for the legitimately disabled. This can be either because of a lack of medical documentation or because an applicant fails to prove disability prohibits employment under the guidelines established by the Social Security Administration.
Once a claim is denied, then begins the wait for reconsideration and, likely, the long wait for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
The SSA will use only current medical treatment records as proof of eligibility when making a disability determination. This means records no more than 90 days old. While older records may be used to establish the onset of disability (which is important when awarding backpay and benefits), current records are required for a disability finding. In cases where no current medical records exist, an applicant may be required to undergo a consultive examination to establish current medical conditions.
An experienced disability law firm in Boston will be in the best position to make sure your application meets all of the requirements for approval and that your rights are protected at each stage of the process. Most reputable law firms will handle these cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will only pay attorney fees if you are successful in securing disability benefits. In most cases, the attorney is paid out of a portion of the initial benefits payment, which includes backpay to date of initial application for disability.
The Social Security Disability Insurance program is paid for by tax credits and payroll deductions while an employee was a productive member of the workforce. While such benefits are sometimes derisively referred to as “entitlement programs” they are entitlement programs precisely because they are earned and paid for by the beneficiary. However, securing all of the benefits to which you are entitled is best done with experienced legal help by your side.
If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Disability Planner: How You Qualify, Social Security Administration
More Blog Entries:
SSDI Appeal Results in Affirmation of Denial, Feb. 15, 2017, Boston SSDI Attorney Blog