Many claimants want to know why it is so difficult to get disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. There are many reasons but we will look at the top five.
1. Over 2.5 million individuals filed for Social Security Disability benefits in 2010. This number is almost unfathomable but with the increase in the employment rate and more and more individuals unable to find suitable employment, more workers are filing for SSDI or SSI benefits than ever before.
2. Many claimants apply for disability benefits who do not meet the basic requirements of either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), wasting valuable processing time which could be used to determine the eligibility of potentially qualifying claimants.
3. Claimants provide inaccurate or insufficient information to process their claim, requiring extra time and resources of the SSA administration to gather the right information.
4. The claims process is long. Not only are there a limited number of Social Security Administration workers (who are overwhelmed by the increasing number of applicants), but it takes time to complete the steps of the disability determination process which includes evaluating whether a claimant meets the eligibility requirements, gathering accurate personal data, gathering the medical records from the treating sources, and sending claimants to consultative examinations.
5. Waiting for a Social Security Disability administrative hearing can take many months. Most claimants are denied at the application level and end up appealing their claim several times. The longest wait is generally at the administrative hearing level.
In many parts of the country the hearing case loads which are pending number in the hundreds and may be divided among only 5 to 10 Administrative Law Judges. The volume of Social Security Disability cases can be overwhelming for the number of judges available to hear the claims. It is not unusual for disability claimants to wait 12-14 months for a Social Security Disability hearing.
What can I do to speed up the SSD process?
Many claimants are upset about the lengthy SSD processing time, but surprisingly few are willing to take the necessary steps to understand the SSDI or SSI process or to take some simple steps to improve their chances of winning disability benefits the first time they apply.
So what should a disability claimant do prior to applying for SSDI or SSI?
1. Review the requirements for each program and determine if you meet the nonmedical requirements. For instance, if you are applying for SSDI, find out if you have enough work credits to qualify. Generally, most workers will need approximately 20-40 work credits to qualify for SSDI. If you are applying for SSI make sure your income and resource level is below the federally allowable limit. If you do not meet either of these nonmedical requirements, your claim will be denied regardless of the severity of your condition.
2. Determine if your condition is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months. If it is not, do not apply, you will be denied.
3. Evaluate your work. If you are working and making too much money (gross income of $1,000 per month in 2011) you will be denied, regardless of the severity of your condition.
4. Review how the SSA decides someone is disabled. Review the SSA Listing of Impairments (Blue Book). Is your condition on this list? If it is not, can you prove through valid medical evidence that you are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months?
5. Go to the doctor. Too many claimants sit back and wait for the SSA to do all of the work. Find a doctor and start building good medical records that support the claim that you cannot work.