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SSA still troubled with lengthy SSDI hearing backlogs

Backlogs and delays in receiving disability benefits can cause real harm. As the scheduling scandal from the Veterans Affairs hospitals has demonstrated, in some cases, delays can be so significant that a patient may die before they receive treatment. For programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), delays can be so lengthy as to lead to applicants filing bankruptcy or dying prior to having their claim for disability benefits accepted.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has repeatedly faced criticisms from disability advocates and politicians concerning the constant backlog problems, which delay applicants from having hearings regarding their applications. During this time, many disabled workers begin to run out options, as they run low on financial resources to pay their bills. And with 70 percent of initial claims denied, there is a great demand for SSDI hearings.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the SSA office for Maryland is one the most affected by the backlog. It ranked in the top five of offices with the longest backlogs, tied with one other office in Mississippi, at 17 months. Two offices in Florida had even longer backlogs of 18 and 19 months.

The story profiles one man, who developed epilepsy and whose severe seizures meant he could no longer work. He applied for SSDI benefits back in January of 2103 and is still waiting for a hearing.

The delay can have catastrophic impact on a family's finances, and in this man's case, has led to his filing for bankruptcy. With the delay in hearings, which occurs after an initial claim for SSDI benefits denied, points to the importance of working with an attorney to help put together the strongest claim possible during the initial part of the process.

Because of underfunding, the SSA is unlikely to make much progress in reducing the backlog this year.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Social Security disability backlog in Md. among highest in nation," John Fritze, June 2, 2014

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