One of the most common questions our Boston disability attorneys are asked is, “How long it will take to get approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits?”
The reality is a successful award of SSDI or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits often takes more work – and more time – than most people initially realize. The reason is because of the how the system was designed.
The Social Security Administration reports the average wait time for an SSDI hearing in Boston is 12.5 months. That’s more expeditious than in many other areas of the country. For example in the Buffalo, NY, the wait time is 25 months. Folks in Akron, OH wait 18 months. In Newark, NJ, it’s 24 months.
When the Social Security disability program was established over six decades ago, there was no money in the fund. The way this program works is the Social Security Administration (SSA), the federal agency tasked with overseeing the two disability programs and the Old Age and Retirement benefits program, collects money from everyone’s pay checks. If a taxpayer was to take a look at their paystub, they will see that there is money taken out for federal and state taxes as well as for Medicare and Social Security. The Social Security withholdings are further divided into money for the disability programs and money for the Old Age and Retirement Programs. This is the money workers get when the reach the age of retirement.
When the system was created, there was no money in the disability fund, because they had not been withholding money for that program from taxpayers before that point. This makes sense, because the program did not exist before this point. It should be noted, as our Boston disability attorneys can explain, that disability fund and retirement fund money cannot be combined, and one fund cannot be used to fund the other program, because they were created by different enabling acts, and Congress required that these funds be kept separate unless there was a special allocation from Congress.
As there was no money when the program started, they still had claimants who were disabled and could not wait until there was enough contributed by taxpayers. To avoid this, they would have had to start collecting money from paychecks and would not have started paying disability benefits for years to come. This didn’t happen, because the program was created because claimants needed money right away. This meant the program would be running at a deficit. This required Congress to provide funding from other sources, which it did, and the program was never solvent enough to pay off its debt and become self-funded. This is okay, because the purpose of the program is not to make money, but to help disabled Americans who are truly in need of benefits to make ends meet and take care of themselves and their families, as we have discussed in other posts on our Boston Social Security Disability Lawyers Blog.
Social Security Disability Application Process
The way the program handles its deficit is by making cases take as long as possible. The wait is often longer than a year from the time a claimant files his or her first application to the time benefits are actually awarded. However, it should be noted that you may be able to get your benefits paid retroactively back to your original date of disability, but you should discuss this matter with an experienced Boston Social Security disability benefits attorney.
In addition to making things take as long as possible, the agency also denies many qualified disabled applicants, which is also a way to save money. While the agency does not publicly admit that this is a policy, is quite obvious, because the vast majority of applications are initially denied, even from claimants who are clearly disabled and should be entitled to benefits.
Not only is the initial application usually denied, the next step in the process is typically just as arbitrary. Instead of an actual appeal, the claimant is asked to file a “Request for Reconsideration.” This request is basically a one-page form, or more commonly questions on the computer, that require a claimant to check boxes and attach any additional medical documentation. However, this application is not reviewed by any type of judge, but rather it is usually done by peer review.
This means a coworker of the one who initially denied the application is asked to see if the denial was proper. At this stage in the process, it is very rare for a claimant to have a successful outcome, and the first denial is usually rubber stamped in the request for reconsideration. At this point, claimant can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ is a hearing officer who works for SSA. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that claimants have their own experienced attorney representing their best interests and fighting for the right to a full and appropriate benefits award. It should be noted that, while many claimants may be concerned they can’t afford an experienced disability attorney, the system is set up in such a way that a claimant will not have to pay any legal fees unless they are successfully in their appeal and are award Social Security disability benefits.
This is all part of the plan to take as long as possible to pay benefits and hope people are not persistent and give up along the way. As it turns out, according to recent news article from The Hill, it seems the Social Security Administration and the disability fund is benefiting from making claimants wait so long. In other words, the plan is working.
As discussed in the article, a recent accounting of the Social Security disability fund shows that the program is slightly healthier that it has been in the past, and current funds will allow the program to survive a bit longer than originally believed by experts. Under the new analysis, there is now enough money in the disability fund to provide for all current and expected benefits payments until the year 2028. At that time, if there have been no additional funds paid by Congress, the budget will be cut by seven percent. The way this cut works is that there would be a seven percent cut to every beneficiary’s monthly benefits award across the board.
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.
Social Security disability fund benefiting from longer lag times, July 31, 2017, By Niv Elis, The Hill
More Blog Entries:
SSDI Appeal Results in Affirmation of Denial, Feb. 15, 2017, Boston SSDI Attorney Blog