Even the best Boston SSDI attorneys know an extended wait time for a disability determination hearing can be inevitable. In Boston, the average is 10 months, according to the latest data from the Social Security Administration. That’s actually one of the shortest lengths in the country, but that doesn’t make it any less painful for those who are disabled and can’t work but are still trying to make ends meet.
Now, the newest budget proposal released by the Trump administration indicates these wait times may stretch even longer as staff positions will be slashed and individuals will be tasked with greater caseloads than ever. Denial of initial applications for Social Security Disability Insurance are commonplace, but we may see them in even higher numbers if this budget is passed. People complaining about the rate of assistance through SSDI now may soon be reminiscing on these as “the good old days.”
The fiscal 2019 Social Security Administration Budget would significantly reduce staffing, which in turn is going to mean longer waits in agency offices and on the phone for those trying to navigate the often complex world of disability benefits.
Reduced service isn’t anything new – it’s been an ongoing and problematic issue for decades. However, the advent of this new budget is going to mean fewer federal employees available to deal with these issues. The budget request calls for nearly a thousand fewer full-time equivalent work years next year than this year. This basically means the equivalent of 1,000 fewer workers in a single year. Meanwhile, staff overtime allowances will be reduced by one-third, even as they try to keep up with this incessant demand.
It gets worse. Because the population is aging and because work injuries are more likely among older employees, we’re going to see a system that’s even more clogged. There are an estimated 10,000 baby boomers hitting retirement age every single day. Last year, reductions in SSA staff levels resulted in an average 627-day wait for hearings on Social Security Disability Insurance application hearings. In 2010, the wait for a phone conversation with an SSA staffer to discuss disability benefits was three minutes. Last year, it ballooned to six times that.
The agency has been trying to redirect people to the website, but even that has not gone off without a hitch. Many of those who need these services don’t know how to use a computer or don’t have regular access to one. System glitches result in additional problems. That has driven people to simply show up at SSA offices; in fact, 2 million more visits to these offices were recorded in 2016 as compared to the year before. Most of those had to wait more than an hour just to have a conversation. When you consider the fact that these individuals are disabled – some severely – and unable to work, it makes these reductions even more unconscionable.
The sad reality, though, is that the trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon. That’s why it’s more important than ever to hire a Boston SSDI attorney who knows how to help you through this system successfully.
SSA representatives continue to put on a hopeful front, promising to be more effective and efficient for the more than 70 million people they serve. It’s unclear how that will be possible, though, considering the level of service was already poor prior to these proposed reductions.
Earlier this year, a 70-year-old man talked at a Senate briefing about the difficulty the existing reductions had placed on elderly and disabled citizens. He talked about waiting in line with a neighbor who is disabled and computer illiterate and the need to return three times in a single week to ensure he got the services he needed. He talked about how his daughter, whose husband had died in a work accident, was destitute and distraught at the trouble she had in obtaining survivor benefits for her and her son. His brother, he said, worked for nearly 35 years when he became disabled and then had to wait almost another three years to obtain benefits. By that time, his savings was depleted, his unemployment benefits had run dry. The impact on people’s lives is real and harmful and ongoing efforts to dismantle this agency are only going to further exacerbate these problems.
Although frustrations run high at the service centers, we recognize it’s not the employees who are to blame – it’s the politicians who for years have been skimping on providing the funds to support these essential services for the disabled, individuals who have worked their whole lives before suffering misfortune.
Make no mistake: This new budget is going to result in a greater deterioration of services. Callers are going to get busy signals when they call the 800 number. Those who show up at the offices are going to be waiting hours, if not returning day after day. Processing times for claims and appeals is going to get even longer. All this while the need grows greater.
Having an experienced SSDI attorney in Boston who can handle much of this for you can help make the process so much more streamlined. You may be able to avoid many of the headaches when you have a dedicated team working on your behalf. This is especially important if you physically cannot wait in these lines or make contact online.
If you are in especially dire financial straights, we may be able to advocate for an expedited claim by submitting a “dire need” letter for faster processing. These would be cases wherein you are at risk of homelessness or unable to pay for necessities like food and medicine. We may also be able to fight for expedited claims if you meet the Compassionate Allowances criteria or if your case falls under the umbrella of Quick Disability Determinations claims.
We are committed in these difficult times to helping you obtain a favorable outcome in your Massachusetts SSDI case. Because our services are offered on a contingency fee basis, you do not pay unless we are successful.
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.
Trump’s Social Security budget offers more work, less staff, longer waits, Feb. 27, 2018, By Joe Davidson, The Washington Post
More Blog Entries:
Establishing Medical Disability in Boston SSDI Cases, March 21, 2018, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog