Social Security Disability (SSD) is a big program. With more than 11 million recipients, simply mailing a first-class envelope to everyone in the program would cost the Social Security Administration (SSA) $5.4 million for postage alone.
For those outside the program, it is sometimes difficult to grasp the size or complexity of SSD, and the fact that the program has outgrown many of the resources necessary for the efficient operation of the program.
The SSD program has had a backlog for hearings with administrative law judges for many years. The backlog has become noticeably worse in the last few years, and the explanation is due to multiple factors.
There more people on the program. The baby boom generation is aging and is more vulnerable to injury and accumulated wear and tear on their bodies. There are more women in the workforce. When the program began in the 1950s, women made up a small percentage of the eligible workforce.
Today, many of the women who entered the workforce in the 1970s or 1980s are now at risk of the type of injuries or medical conditions that can become an impairment that leads to the loss of ability to work and eligibility to receive SSD.
With more people entering the process, it makes sense to expect that SSA would have added substantially more ALJs to hold hearings on claimant's benefits. Unfortunately, SSA has seen many reductions in its staffing levels, as Congress has cut funds to the agency. They have seen budget reductions and funding cuts, such as those forced by the sequestration, and they all negatively affect SSA's ability to function.
It is unlikely, even with the addition of more ALJs within the next two years that the backlog will see significant reductions, so it is important to do what you can to ensure your application is complete and that it demonstrates with as much medical evidence as possible your impairment and its effect on your ability to work.
While there are never any guarantees with an SSD application, putting together a complete application can help prevent your claim from being denied and creating the necessity for an appeal.
Source: springfieldnewssun.com, "Injured workers wait — and wait — for benefits," Chris Stewart, March 5, 2016