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SSDI backlog tops one million, with wait times of two years

The average wait time for Social Security Disability claims is now over 600 days, but hope is on the horizon.

It is no secret that Social Security Disability (SSDI) applicants face a daunting wait when it comes to applying for claims and appealing denied claims. However, just how bad that wait has become is particularly shocking. As CBS News reports, Social Security is currently dealing with a backlog of more than one million people waiting to find out if they qualify for disability benefits. That has led to an average wait time of close to two years before claimants get an appeals hearing before an Administrative Law Judge if they are denied on their initial application.

Why the backlog is so bad?

Most of those one million people included in that backlog are appealing their initially denied claim. Unfortunately, while most claims are eventually successful after they have been appealed, about two thirds of claims are initially denied. Those appeals are heard by Administrative Law Judges at the Social Security Administration (SSA).

However, the SSA has been subject to numerous budget and staff cutbacks over the years. As a result, Administrative Law Judges have limited time to review and adjudicate what are often complex cases with hundreds of pages of medical records. That lack of time makes it extremely difficult for claimants to get the attention their cases deserve. Currently, the wait time to see a judge in the Portland area is approximately 1.5 years from the time the hearing request is filed.

Is there any hope for claimants?

The extreme backlog can leave many disability claimants in a state of despair. However, there is some hope on the horizon. As KTVZ News reports, the recent federal omnibus spending bill did include a modest increase to the SSA budget that is designed to specifically target the long wait times.

Furthermore, the SSA says it is working on expanding its compassionate allowance program. Compassionate allowance is a fast-track application process for claimants who are suffering from the most serious of health ailments. The health conditions that qualify for compassionate allowance are either terminal or particularly debilitating and include various forms of cancer, congenital diseases, neurological diseases, Huntington disease, and more. The SSA has also committed to hiring more support staff so that Administrative Law Judges can handle cases more efficiently.

Speeding up the claims process

The massive wait times for getting a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge are a reminder of why it is so important for claimants to hire a disability benefits attorney as soon as possible. Claims for SSDI can be very complex and with so many getting denied, it helps to have an attorney on one's side to help maximize the chances of a favorable result sooner rather than later.

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At the Robyn M. Rebers LLC in Clackamas County, Oregon, I handle cases of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income applications and appeals. I represent clients throughout Oregon, including those in Clackamas County, Multnomah County, Washington County, Yamhill County and Marion County, as well as the cities of Tualatin, Clackamas, Portland, Wilsonville, Gladstone, Beaverton, Tigard, West Linn, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Sherwood, Newberg, Damascus, Sunnyside, Jennings Lodge, Oatfield, Oak Grove, Hillsboro, Sheridan, Molalla, Canby, Happy Valley, Johnson City, Oregon City, Sandy, River Grove, Charbonneau, King City, Aloha, Woodburn, Aurora, Donald, Hubbard, St. Paul and McMinnville.

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