BELLEVILLE, IL--(Marketwired - July 22, 2016) - The number of people with severe disabilities waiting for a decision on their claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits has reached historic highs. The long waits for Social Security disability hearings are creating extreme hardships for individuals and their families, according to Allsup, the nation's leading provider of SSDI representation services. Nationwide, the average wait time for a hearing has grown to nearly 18 months.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently updated figures for cases pending at the hearing level. As of July 7, there were 1,121,267 people awaiting hearings.
The number of people who can anticipate waiting two years for a hearing also is growing. The top five Social Security hearing offices with the longest waits total 37,476 disability claims and a wait time averaging 711.4 days, according to SSA workload data.
Top 5 Hearing Offices - Average wait: 711.4 days for 37,476 people
- Brooklyn, New York - 4,071 claimants pending, 750 days for a hearing
- Miami, Florida - 8,974 claimants pending, 723 days for a hearing
- Buffalo, New York - 11,989 claimants pending, 698 days for a hearing
- Ponce, Puerto Rico - 2,730 claimants pending, 693 days for a hearing
- Greensboro, North Carolina - 9,712 claimants pending, 693 days for a hearing
"The ordeal that tens of thousands of Americans with disabilities must endure for their Social Security disability claim to be reviewed is unconscionable," said Mike Stein, assistant vice president of claims for Allsup. "The last time backlogs were this severe was 2008. Wait times started climbing again following 2012 when the average wait was 353 days. Today, the national average is 530 days"
Out of 170 hearing offices, according to Social Security, 165 have disability hearing wait times of more than 400 days. "These extended SSDI hearing waiting times are a major hardship for those who have worked all their lives and find themselves with a severe disabling illness or injury," Stein said. "The longer they wait, the more of a struggle it is for them to pay for housing, food, healthcare and other essentials."
"There is no relief in sight and the Social Security Administration has promised a plan for clearing the backlog by 2020," he said. "That's four years from now, and the claimants in the queue are getting sicker and sicker."
Stein added that the worsening hearing backlog means that experienced representation and guidance through the SSDI filing process is more important than ever. Allsup has helped more than 250,000 people receive their SSDI income and the associated benefits, which include Medicare coverage after 24 months of receiving cash SSDI benefits and benefits for dependents under age 18.
Allsup: Tips for Getting Through the SSDI Backlog
Stein offered five tips to avoid or survive the long wait:
- Get help early. Applying for SSDI is complicated. It's important to file an initial application correctly (and future appeals, if necessary), so benefits can be awarded with the first application and avoid a hearing altogether. For example, about 50 percent of Allsup customers who have help at this level will be awarded their benefits, compared to 33 percent with Social Security nationwide.
- Make certain about eligibility. Find a free SSDI assessment on Allsup.com. Claimants must have worked and paid into the disability program through FICA payroll taxes for at least five of the last 10 years. And they must have become disabled before reaching full retirement age (65 to 67). To qualify, the disability must be severe and likely to end in death or prevent work for at least a year.
- File promptly. An initial claim may take three to six months to review. If that first claim isn't approved, that means the claim must move through several levels of the appeals process. "That may take up to four years, and that's time most people don't have," Stein said. "In any case, it's better to get the SSDI application started as soon as possible."
- Confirm the applicant's medical team is on board. Written confirmation of a disability from a medical doctor is crucial to proving qualification for SSDI benefits. Applications without a doctor's agreement can delay benefits or make it easier to deny.
- "Don't give up," Stein said. "Allsup has helped hundreds of thousands of people receive the benefits they deserve. We can help guide you through the process and with a greater chance of success than going it alone."
Individuals wanting to apply for SSDI benefits can learn more about their eligibility and Allsup representation services on Allsup.com.
Allsup and its subsidiaries provide nationwide Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal, re-employment, exchange plan and Medicare services for individuals, their employers and insurance carriers. Allsup professionals deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. Founded in 1984, the company is based in Belleville, Illinois, near St. Louis. Visit http://www.Allsup.com for more information.