It’s safe to say the Social Security Administration (SSA) is slow-moving. When applying for disability benefits in Indiana, people can expect to wait as long as 20 months before having a hearing in front of a judge to make their case. This doesn’t include the months spent waiting to hear back about your initial application, filing a request for reconsideration, or waiting to hear back about the appeal.
However, the administration isn’t blind to this frustrating and often tragic flaw. Because the process takes so long, some applicants tragically pass away before the SSA can approve them for benefits. The SSA’s 2018 budget, signed into law in late March, includes an extra $380 million for technology improvements and $100 million specifically targeted to reduce the backlog.
However, funding a solution is different from finding one, and the agency has many hurdles to overcome. In the face of the processes currently working against those seeking disability claims, $100 million is only a small step in the right direction.
Why Do Disability Benefits Claims Take So Long?
If just filing for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) is difficult, the process for evaluating each application is ten times more complicated. The SSA’s process involves medical professionals, judges, attorneys, and government officials, not to mention the millions of beneficiaries the agency is responsible for.
However, a few decisions in recent years have done even more harm in regards to the inefficiency of the agency. For example, since 2013, the SSA has had to function without a Senate-confirmed leader, which limits its strategic direction and reduces the ability for the agency to make its needs known in the federal government. From January to April 2017, the SSA, along with other federal agencies, was subject to a hiring freeze and was not allowed to hire additional staff.
In addition, perhaps the greatest bottleneck slowing the application process down is a shortage of staff members. The $100 million earmarked for backlog reduction will likely be applied in part to hiring more administrative law judges (ALJs) and support staff to help the hearing process catch up to demand.
Beyond adding more pairs of eyes and hands to sift through innumerable SSDI applications, the SSA also struggles with shaking off what may appear to be outdated or simply redundant ways of doing things.
The agency requests applicants to submit multiple types of medical evidence — a doctor’s opinion, medical and laboratory tests, personal records, etc. — that often overlap and rarely make things easier for Disability Determination Bureaus (DDBs) to decipher.
Second, the SSA often interacts with other government agencies that applicants already have records with (e.g., Veterans Affairs or Medicaid). Instead of using the information already accessible in other agencies’ records, the SSA chooses to use its own processes for determining disability. This approach increases the amount of processing time needed, as applicants will essentially reapply even if they already qualify under another agency’s similar standards.
File with Confidence with an Indiana Disability Attorney
For now, even with the promise of improvement, the SSDI application process remains tedious, difficult, and sometimes tragic. One of the best ways to beat the system is to work with someone who understands it inside and out.
The Social Security disability attorneys at Hensley Legal Group have been helping Hoosiers apply and fight for disability benefits since 1998. You don’t have to face this process alone; call us today to find out how we can help. No matter where you are in the application process, we’ll figure out how to fight for the benefits you deserve. Contact us today to start your free consultation with a local attorney.