A recent editorial from The Des Moines Register discussed what has been called the nightmare shared by millions of disabled Americans. What they all have in common is they are waiting to learn whether they will finally be approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. They are waiting for the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to make a decision, hold a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), or both.
The author compares this to a place where you are typically given a number a number and told to wait your turn until that number is called. We could be talking about the RMV, or even your local deli counter at the Stop and Shop. In this example, if they agency really gave out numbers, you would be handed a number with a value higher than 1.4 million, and they would be calling number six. While this may seem like an absurd example, if you are waiting for your ALJ hearing, there are likely more than 1.4 million people ahead of you, system wide. In fact, as our Boston disability attorneys can explain, the average wait for an unrepresented claimant is around 18 months. There are, however, a lot of reasons that the wait is so long. It is partly due to the fact that Congress keeps cutting SSA’s budget, and they do not have the resources to handle all of the claims in a timely manner.
Part of the problem is also due to the fact that the agency does not handle matters in an efficient manner. It is believed that one reason for this is that there are just a lot of problems with how the agency is managed, but there are many who believe the back log is created intentionally as means of paying out less in benefits or taking longer to pay out what benefits ultimately get approved. Through paying out less in benefits, the agency can stretch its insufficient budget to make the money they do have last longer. This allegation has been the basis of several whistleblower claims covered extensively by the Wisconsin Watchdog, and one of the whistleblowers has claimed SSA terminated her employment in retaliation for blowing the whistle on SSA. If true, this would be illegal, and Congress is holding hearings on this issue.
In some cases, claimants who were not represented by an experienced benefits attorney had mistakes in their applications. While this is not unreasonable, the agency does not cut these claimants any slack because they did not choose to retain an attorney and uses these mistakes to reject applications on a regular basis. For this reason, the best thing you can do is speak with an experienced SSDI or SSI lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you have someone on your side who not only knows how to fill out the paperwork correctly, but also someone who will fight for your rights to obtain the benefits to which you are entitled.
To make matters worse, not only are people waiting an extremely long period of time to get benefits, they are also dying while on the waitlist. For example, it is estimated that over 200 military veterans died while waiting to be approved for benefits.
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.
Editorial: A million-man waiting list for disability benefits, December 25, 2016, The Des Moines Register
More Bog Entries:
Social Security Disability Judges Allegedly Used Racial and Sexual Terms on Claimants’ Applications, July 22, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog