Social Security Disability Backlog: Why is My Case Taking So Long?!?!?

Because of the Social Security Disability backlog of cases. There are so many open disability cases, it takes a long time for the SSA to process all of the claims.

Social Security’s NETSTAT report gives the average time (in months) from the hearing request date until a hearing is held for claims pending in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (“ODAR”). The chart can be found at the following web address:

The NETSTAT report states that the wait time for the Mobile ODAR, which covers the Greater Pensacola Florida area, is currently 13 months (updated as of March 2013). This wait time does not go back to when the claim was first filed. It begins when the Request for Hearing was filed (the Request for Hearing is the second appeal, which comes after the Request for Reconsideration).  Thus, it is not unusual for a hearing to take place 1.5 to 2 years after the disability application was filed!

Applying for disability is a great hardship.

The family has lost an income source, so money is tight. You want to work, but are unable to do so due to a disabling condition. The disability application process becomes even more disheartening when you find out how long Social Security takes to process the claims.

Over the last five years, Social Security’s disability workloads have grown significantly due in part to baby-boomers reaching their disability-prone years and an economic downturn with high unemployment. Since Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2007, initial disability claim receipts have increased by nearly 30 percent. In FY 2011, Social Security received nearly 3.3 million initial disability applications, over 30,000 more than Social Security received in FY 2010. Social Security anticipates receiving nearly 3.3 million applications in FY 2012 and over 3.1 million in FY 2013.

Consequently, the number of appeals has also grown, which means that the time to process the appeals has grown.

In FY 2011, Social Security received a record number of requests for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge – nearly 860,000 requests, which is 20 percent more than it received FY 2010. In FY 2007, almost half of all claimants who requested hearings had waited more than 270 days for a hearing decision, and some waited up to 1,400 days. At the end of FY 2011, 29 percent of hearing requests were over 270 days old and virtually no cases were over 775 days old.

At the end of FY 2008, the average wait for a hearing decision peaked at nearly 18 months. Since that time, Social Security has steadily reduced the wait. In FY 2011, Social Security cut the average wait to below one year for the first time since 2003. However, this year long wait is not calculated from the date the claimant filed the initial application. It is calculated from the time the Request for Hearing was filed, which is typically from 3 to 6 months after the application was originally filed. That means the average wait from initial application to hearing before a judge is still approximately 1.5 to 2 years! I don’t tell you this to discourage you, but to let you know that the delay is due to the incredibly large number of applicants and the huge backlog of cases Social Security has pending. 3.1 million claims is a lot of claims to process.