The backlog of Social Security disability claims is growing. The Social Security Administration had made great strides on shortening the appeal time, but all those gains have been lost in the last year. Why is this happening? People in the Social Security Administration, or perhaps politicians, have decided that Social Security disability cases need to be more closely reviewed. There was a view that too many people who are not truly disabled were receiving benefits. To address this misperception, two things have changed: first, up until about a year ago, if someone had a very strong case of disability, instead of requiring the person to wait for a hearing with the judge, an attorney in the Social Security Administration was able to write a favorable decision, and therefore get benefits to the person a lot sooner. That program has all but been shut down. Second, the Social Security Administration began a much more intense examination of all of the decisions being issued by their judges. The Social Security Administration has more actively criticized judges decisions when the Social Security Administration believed that the judge did not have adequate support to find someone disabled. What this means is that the judges are spending even more time holding their hearings, and writing their decisions, to avoid criticism from the Social Security Administration. Up until fairly recently, when the case appeared relatively strong, the judges were able to move to a decision quite quickly. That has all changed. The result is that in Albany, where the hearings were held about one year after the appeal was filed, they now are being delayed for about 15 months after the appeal is requested. The timeframe seems to be growing, especially in light of an increase in the number of disability claims being filed.
What does this all mean for someone considering applying for disability? First, a person who wants to seek Social Security disability should not delay in starting the application, because from the time of the initial application until a judge hears the case, and makes a ruling, can now approach two years. Second, because of the long processing time, a person seeking disability has to do everything they can to obtain proper medical documentation to give themselves the best chance possible to win their claim.