The Social Security’s agency report for 2013 shows that disability applicants had the longest average wait time for approval in four years. Applicants had to wait for an average of 396 days for an approval in 2013. That’s the longest since 2009, when applicants had to wait an average 470 days from the time they submitted their first claim request. Chicago attorney Howard Ankin says the lengthy wait time underscores the idea that applicants need to be thoroughly prepared before submitting their application.
The SSA had been able to cut down the wait time in recent years. After the high in 2009, wait time was reduced to 390 days in 2010 and then 345 days in 2011. However, 2012 saw a slight uptick back to 362 days.
According to the agency report, there are several reasons for the increase in wait time. The SSA says that persistent weakness in the labor market is forcing many of the long-term unemployed to turn to Social Security disability for income.
The Social Security Administration also says that the 2013 government sequester had an impact on wait times. The agency wasn’t able to hire new employees or pay overtime to current employees. That meant that a backlog continued to grow until the sequester was resolved.
Finally, the SSA has also not been able to hire the necessary amount of Administrative Law Judges. These judges are the only people who are able to oversee Social Security hearings in person. All appeals for denied claims go through these judges, so a shortage of ALJs creates an approval backlog. The agency says it has been able to hire some ALJs, but not enough to keep up with the increase in Social Security disability applications.
Chicago attorney Howard Ankin said that the wait time for Social Security approval has always been lengthy. He added that even the smallest administrative error can cause an application to be rejected. Said Mr. Ankin, “It’s important to applicants to be completely prepared before submitting their claim. Working with a professional can help ensure that their application is ready for review.”
In one case, a WWII veteran had to wait over 35 years for his benefits. You can read more about that case and Howard’s thoughts here.