Social Security Disability Decisions and the Government Shutdown

February 6th, 2019 by Attorney John Colvin

The recent partial federal government shutdown caused concern and frustration among many Americans who rely upon a fully functioning government.  During that 35-day period a lot of work wasn’t getting done at federal agencies.  Even though the partial government shutdown did not cause Social Security to shut down, any government shutdown creates a ripple effect when Congress fails to act timely on committee hearings and legislation that might help speed up the administrative process. There are more than 800,000 Americans waiting for their Social Security Disability (SSD) appeals to be decided, reports USA Today. About two-thirds of initial applications for SSD are rejected. Applicants can appeal to get a hearing by an administrative law judge or re-apply. About a third of appeals are rejected at the hearing level.

Thousands of applicants are so disabled and the process so slow that each year thousands die waiting for a final answer. In fiscal year 2016, 8,699 Americans died waiting to hear from the SSA. That number increased to 10,002 in 2017. About 8.8 million Americans receive SSD benefits.

The SSA states that the average wait for an appeal to be heard and decided is 540 days, or about a year and a half. The agency told the newspaper that they want to reduce the wait for a hearing, but they have received for several years a “record” number of hearing requests. This comes at a time when more Americans are aging into a time where they are more likely to develop a disability. SSA also claims their resources didn’t keep up with the demand.

According to the SSA, the average wait for a hearing has decreased for 22 months in a row. Proposed legislation to try to further reduce the backlog has been introduced in the House of Representatives; but it, too, has been delayed, stalled for four years while it awaits a House subcommittee hearing.

The definition of disability is the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or to result in death. Qualifying for benefits can be difficult, and the impact of the disability must be made clear by the application and the medical evidence supporting it.

Though these statistics may seem daunting and depressing, you can improve the odds of getting a quicker decision.

  • The earlier you apply for SSD or appeal your initial rejection, the sooner there will be a final outcome.
  • We can help you provide the kinds of evidence and documentation the SSA needs to approve benefits, because we know what they’re looking for.
  • When there is enough high-quality documentation, it makes it easier for there to be a decision in your favor, and the outcome should be sooner than later.

If you have sought SSDI benefits and have been denied, or if you need guidance with the application process, we may be able to help. We understand how a denial of benefits can affect families, and we care about people receiving the benefits to which they’re entitled. Get your free consultation today – call us or complete our contact form.

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