With this in mind, ABC News recently had an interesting report about how the wait times are hurting poor, disabled Americans. One woman the news outlet talked to, Sherice Bennett of the Miami area, has diabetes, arthritis and has had open-heart surgery. She has been waiting for more than two years for a chance to convince an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that she should qualify for SSDI benefits.
Another woman the news outlet talked to who is bipolar has not been able to buy medications needed to treat her disorder for several months, as she awaits a benefit decision.
“Overburdened administrative judges are working through huge caseloads of these appeals all over America, but Miami has the country’s longest average wait for a hearing, at 22 months,” ABC News reported. “And while they wait, many slip into poverty, burdening their families and dragging down the economy.”
The news outlet reported that the backlog is a result of an aging workforce, with numbers for hearings piling up after the Social Security Administration received cuts in funding.
“The system doesn’t work,” said Bennett, according to ABC News. “No one should have to wait two years for a hearing. We have criminals that wait less time than that. These are people that are sick and have paid into the system.”
Because of her wait for benefits, Bennett had trouble paying her rent and was evicted, leading her son to drop out of college to help her pay for housing.
As we blogged about in October, the SSA has said that it hopes to address the backlog by hiring more ALJs and allowing for the use of video technology in rural areas to perform hearings remotely. Outside of this, there have been no real reports of changes to help wait periods.
Do Not Let the SSDI Backlog Dissuade You From Obtaining Benefits
It is sad that the backlog continues to be a problem for many Americans looking to collect SSDI. Although this is unfortunate, it should not prevent you from attempting to obtain benefits if you can no longer work.
Remember, you may be entitled to back pay, if you end up waiting for an extended period for benefits. This pay is determined based on the onset date at which you were disabled, the application date and the waiting period.
This compensation can be a tremendous benefit for someone who has been waiting for several months or years for benefits. For more information about the SSDI process, you can visit our Social Security FAQ page.