If you apply for Social Security disability, get ready for a long wait.
Nationally, on average, the wait time for a disability hearing has now grown to 480 days. That is 127 days more than in 2011 despite numerous initiatives and promises from the Social Security Administration. But the total wait time for disability benefits is much worse. A hearing request is made as one of the last stages of the disability benefits process and is typically filed after a claimant has been denied benefits at the initial and reconsideration stages, processes that can take 6-12 months.
“In Nebraska, the delay is not quite as bad, but the local SSA office and administrative law judges are hampered by underfunding and understaffing while their area of responsibility has expanded ”, says Tim Cuddigan of Cuddigan Law. “The responsibility for scheduling and managing appeals hearings falls on the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). The Omaha office manages disability hearings for the Social Security field offices in Lincoln, Omaha and Norfolk. Currently, it takes the Omaha ODAR an average of 451 days to schedule a disability hearing.”
Social Security administrative judges, who decide SSA disability cases, are overburdened as they slog through huge caseloads of these appeals. It is estimated that currently there are more than one million Social Security disability appeals pending across the U.S.
According to the Associated Press, experts blame the backlog on the number of aging baby boomers flooding the system and requests by SSA for more employees have been turned down.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is paid for by workers through payroll taxes and provides modest support of an average of $1,165 a month for about 10.8 million disabled Americans who qualify through prior work history. About 4.9 million others, because they have really low income or no income, qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and are paid an average of about $560 a month — both SSDI and SSI require rigorous medical proof that recipients are unable to work.