Could a new rule make the wait time for a Social Security disability hearing even longer? Per a KCUR 89.3 report, that may be the case. Currently, applicants must wait an average of around 600 days for a hearing. The long wait times have reportedly led to a nationwide backlog of Social Security disability hearings.
The backlog dates back nearly a decade. Jason Fichtner, who was acting deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration back then, told KCUR 89.3 that at that time, the Great Recession was in full swing, leading to the SSA receiving a large influx of disability benefits applications. With so many people applying for disability benefits at once and the SSA’s operating budget shrinking 10 percent since 2010, the agency fell behind, and they have never been able to catchup. Currently, over a million disability applicants nationwide are awaiting disability hearings.
Unfortunately, not only does this new rule seem like it will help clear the SSA’s disability hearing backlog, it sounds like it will make it worse. The new rule is part of the SSA’s efforts to streamline the application process and combat fraud. Under the SSA’s new rule, special consideration will no longer be given to disability benefit applicants’ longtime doctor when making the decision to approve or deny their applications.
This rule change will give less weight to medical evidence from an applicant’s treating physician, which could result in an increase in disability application denials, especially for people with complex conditions such as schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis and lupus. More denials mean more appeals. More appeals mean more disability hearings, which will only increase the backlog.