Why Your Disability Determination From the SSA Takes So Long

Social Security Disability determination

There may be ways to speed up the approval process for your Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. Still, your disability determination can take months – maybe longer if you’re appealing a denial. For some, not receiving Social Security disability income can mean not paying bills or receiving needed medical care. Why does it take so long to receive a determination decision about your disability claim? Simply put, there are more applications than the Social Security Administration (SSA) can handle.

Cutting Through The Claims Backlog

Most people know the Social Security disability benefits determination process can take a long time, and while wait times differ across the country, it is a good bet to expect to wait for many months. According to the SSA, the shortest wait times are in Shreveport, LA, with 6 months; Metairie, LA, with 6.5 months; Moreno Valley, CA, at 7 months; and Stockton, CA, with 7 months. In certain parts of the U.S., wait times can be as high as 14 months.

For many people, waiting more than a year to have their application heard can be devastating. In an interview with WIVB, Ohio resident Kathy Nobilio said she was lucky her bank understood that she had been waiting for more than a year for payments.

“[My appeal for benefits] is just sitting there – nothing has been done,” Nobilio told the news source. “I’m afraid I’m going to lose my house. The bank has been very patient.”

More Veterans Await Determination Decisions From The VA

According to USA Today, the backlog for military veterans’ applications alone is at about 400,000 cases. While this seems high, it isn’t as high as March 2013’s veterans’ application backlog, which was at more than 600,000 cases. And the number of people looking to receive Social Security disability benefits has only increased. According to The Associated Press, SSA judges continue to work to cut down on the backlog, as Social Security disability beneficiaries rose by 44% within the past decade.

Is Getting A Determination Decision For SSI Any Faster?

Some people may think they could receive benefits faster if they apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, the Ohio Bar says the “laws governing who medically qualifies are the same” for both programs. According to the Federal Times, the slow determination issue may only worsen, as the number of SSA employees continues to decline. In June 2013, the SSA had 7% fewer workers than it did two years prior.

“Given the expectation of leaner future budgets, SSA needs to plan to meet its mission with fewer resources,” the Office of the Inspector General said, according to the Fiscal Times.

For those thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits, working with a Social Security attorney or advocate can improve their chances of being approved the first time around, as appealing a denial only prolongs wait times.

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