Social Security Disability is funded by workers’ payroll taxes and provides monthly income and health care benefits when an illness or medical condition stops someone from working 12 months or longer. It is a safety net for millions of disabled Americans; however, there are bureaucratic barriers to obtaining these benefits.
There is currently a massive backlog of over 1 million people waiting for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Federal data in the summer of 2017 indicated an average wait time of 596 days from filing an appeal to appearing before an Administrative Law Judge. According to the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR), the wait for benefits in some regions is exceeding three years.
The SSA has hired 396 Administrative Law Judges in the last two years, but that is below the 500 it says it needed. The wait times are so extensive that a recent Washington Post article cited nearly 19,000 Americans died over a two year period while waiting for Social Security Disability and SSI benefits.
In November 2017, the Social Security Administration updated an existing backlog reduction plan, “CARES” (Compassionate and Responsive Service). The updated plan proposes to decrease the waiting period for a hearing by two months, decrease the waiting period to receive a decision after the hearing, and increase the number of hearings scheduled per month.
Although the plan promises to chip away at the backlog, it's crucial now more than ever to have an experienced attorney represent you at your long-awaited hearing. At the hearing you will have the opportunity to tell the judge why you feel you are unable to work. It is also important to be receiving current medical treatment and be sure that the judge has your updated medical records.
If you are one of two-thirds of applicants who have been denied, the good news is that many applicants are awarded benefits at their disability hearing. It may be a waiting game, but there is still hope.
At Metzger Wickersham, we can help you streamline the process to obtain SSD benefits. Our disability lawyers have used our knowledge and experience to help thousands of clients just like you. Contact us today to find out how we can assist. We have offices located in Harrisburg, Lancaster, Pottsville, Shippensburg, Wilkes-Barre and York, allowing us to conveniently serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.
January 10, 2018 - Updated to include information from a more recent news article