As a recent Washington Post article pointed out, an appeal for a denied disability often takes longer than an initial application. With each appeal comes more time that a person must wait to hear back about their claim. At the first step in the appeals process, the average wait time to hear back on a decision is 109 days.
But if people who are truly disabled are in immediate need of the financial assistance these benefits provide, then why does the appeals process take so long? The reason, the Washington Post article points out, is the backlog at each step of the appeals process -- a backlog that is now more than 990,000 cases and growing.
Although the federal government, including the Social Security Administration, is aware of the negative impact the backlog is having on applicants, some have speculated that the reason the problem has not been fixed is because of the number of things that seem to be making the backlog worse. So what seems to be causing the SSD backlog? Let's take a look.
For starters, a considerable amount of people from the baby boomer generation have developed disabilities that qualify them for benefits, meaning a large increase in the number of applicants in a short amount of time. Strict rules and regulations also bog down the system, requiring more time on each application before a decision is made.
Some have also pointed out that the backlog is exacerbated by outdated rules that require judges to confirm that a person is "truly unable to hold any job." Unfortunately, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, the book judges are supposed to reference when making a decision about someone's ability to work, is incredibly out of date and is not expected to have a replacement until sometime in 2017.
Though a reform of the SSD system is welcomed by many people across the nation -- politicians included -- the Washington Post points out that such a reform could be incredibly expensive, especially considering the complexity of the current system. This might not be an undertaking the federal government is willing to take at this time, even though many consider it to be a necessary task.
Source: The Washington Post, "'It's just maddening. There's nothing you can do.'" David A. Fahrenthold, Oct. 18, 2014