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What's the hold up?

Social Security Disability applications are on the rise. This is not news to anyone in the industry like SSA representative and disability lawyers, but if this is your first time to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) you might be frustrated with the process and wondering, “What is the hold up? When is the SSA going to make the disability decision?” All you want is to get your SSI or SSDI benefits as soon as possible and you don’t care who is ahead of you in line…but wait, it is not that simple.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"]Seal of the United States Social Security Admi... Seal of the United States Social Security Administration. It appears on Social Security cards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]

Who is seeking disability  help from the SSA?

Right now given the aging population not only is the number of disability claimants who are receiving SSI and SSDI benefits on the rise, the amount of people who are applying for SSI or SSDI is also rising.

One thing that is for sure, as the economy tanks the number of SSI or SSDI applications increases. In 2010, it is estimated that 3.2 million people filed for SSI and SSDI disability benefits. This is a staggering number of claimants especially when you factor in the budgetary constraints of the Social Security Administration.

What does this mean for your SSI or SSDI application? It is grouped with the other close to 2 million other applicants that are waiting for a disability decision at any given time. Maybe you have heard that you might wait up to 2 years to win benefits? Can this possibly be true?

If you have to appeal a SSI or SSDI denial this might be true. The Congressional Research Service has studied the process and they estimate that many claimants who are waiting to see an administrative law judge in some parts of the country may wait an average of 777 days.

At what stage can I expect to be denied disability benefits?

Where are you most likely to have your SSI or SSDI application denied? It is estimated that 60-70% of the millions of disability applicants will be denied at the initial application level. Obviously, some of these SSI and SSDI applications never met the most basic qualification for SSI or SSDI: the SSDI applicants did not have enough work credits, the SSI applicants had too much income or resources, the applicant’s conditions were not long-term or the applicants were working too much.

At the first level in the appeals process the story is even worse. Reconsiderations are denied at a rate of 80-87%.  This is not surprising, however, because at this stage nothing has generally changed with the application on the information which is evaluated, the application is simply sent to another examiner who gives it a second review (using the same criteria as the first examiner).

At the second level in the appeals process the numbers change. If you request an administrative hearing you will be given the opportunity to plead your SSI or SSDI case in front of a judge who is able to make the disability determination. The main problem with administrative judges is the disparity of approval ratings throughout the country. Some judges have an approval rate as low as 15% while others approve over 80% of the cases that they hear in their court.

If you have to appeal your case a third time to the Appeals Council- good luck. They deny approximately 74% of the cases they hear. Some may be remanded back to the judge but the Appeals Court completely reversed and offered benefits to less than 2% of SSI and SSDI claimants.
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