When a claimant applies for Social Security disability benefits, it can be a somewhat lengthy process. The first step in the process is to submit an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Regardless of the type of benefits applied for, you submit the application to the United States Social Security Administration (SSA), as that is the federal governmental organization responsible for administering the Social Security disability programs. SSA also administers the Social Security Old Age and Retirement fund, with which most people are familiar.
Once you submit the application, there is a good chance SSA will deny it, because they deny more than half of all applications without much regard to the merits of the application. Once an application has been rejected, claimant can submit it for reconsideration. This first appeal is typically done as a part of a peer review process, and it is a coworker of the employee who made the initial denial that is responsible for evaluating whether the denial was warranted or not. As one could imagine, it is not very likely that a denied application will be approved at this stage in the process. Eventually, a claim will be given a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
As part of a recent article from the Associated Press, one disabled woman discusses her struggles as she waits out the long process of getting Social Security Disability Insurance. She suffers from diabetes, arthritis, and recently had open-heart surgery. She has said that she is unable to work as a result of her health conditions, cannot afford her medication, and lost her home during the two years she has been forced to wait for a hearing before an ALJ.
One person interviewed as part of the news article is bipolar and has been forced to spend time in mental institutions, but still has not been declared disabled. However, these two people are still alive to wait longer. There are many who died while waiting for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. One man waited two years and died two months before an ALJ finally set a hearing. His application was finally approved, and his surviving spouse will get the benefits that he should have received.
There are a variety of reasons for the tremendous backlog in getting claimants to an ALJ for a benefits denial appeal. SSA blames the problems on too many baby boomers getting disabled, and not enough funding for the problem. While there may be some truth to these reasons, it seems that if SSA was denying all of these benefits claims as a matter of policy, there would be much less need for ALJ hearings, and that would reduce the backlog. However, that would mean paying more benefits, and that is the reason benefits have been made so difficult to approve in the first place.
If you are disabled and living in the Boston area and planning to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, the best thing you can do is speak with an experienced disability attorney as early in the process as possible, as this will greatly increase your chance of a full and appropriate benefits award.
If you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Some struggle to live while waiting more than 2 years for Social Security disability hearings, November 16, 2015, AP, by Kelli Kennedy
More Blog Entries:
Hanson v. Colvin: A Critical Look by a Court of Appeals on a Denial of Benefits, August 14, 2014, Boston Disability Lawyers Blog.