More than 1 million Americans await a hearing to see whether they qualify for disability benefits from Social Security with the average wait nearly 2 years – longer than some of them will live.
All have been denied at least once, as most applicants are initially rejected.
Last year, there were 7,400 people on wait lists who were dead according to a report by Social Security’s Inspector General. The Social Security Administration says it is working to reduce the backlog by hiring 500 new Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) and more than 600 support staff. The Judges, who now hear about 1,600 appeals from people who were initially denied benefits. Unfortunately, budget cuts over the past 5 years have frustrated efforts to reduce the disability backlog. Last year, the agency’s budget was 12.6 billion, roughly the same as it was in 2011, even though an additional 6 million receive either retirement or disability benefits from Social Security. Statistically, the best chance of success is at the hearing level before an Administrative Law Judge, however, the backlog makes it extremely difficult for individuals waiting for their hearing to be scheduled.