Slepian Smith, PLLC

Too many Americans are dying waiting for SSDI

Last month, USA Today published a heartbreaking investigative report on how thousands of Americans die each year waiting for their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) appeals to be decided. Advocates say this should not be happening, considering that SSDI applicants have paid into the SSDI insurance fund through employment taxes.

More than 800,000 people are waiting for rulings in SSDI appeal cases. USA Today reported that in fiscal year 2016, 8,699 people died while waiting and in 2017, 10,002 died while waiting. There is concern that the numbers could continue to rise each year if nothing is done to improve the system.

The Social Security Administration admits that the national average time it takes to process an SSDI appeal is 540 days.

The SSA blames the aging baby-boomer population and recent economic recession, in part, for the long wait times. It says that demand for appeals increased greatly while the SSA's budget and resources did not increase to handle the greater need, and this led to a significant backlog of cases.

However, an SSA spokesman said that wait times improved from January 2017 to October 2018 after a new plan was implemented and Congress granted additional funds.

The USA Today article went on to explain that even the initial application for SSDI can be difficult and time-consuming because of the SSA's strict requirements. It can be difficult for individuals to determine whether they have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI and whether a disabling condition meets the SSA's stringent definition of disability.

For these reasons, many people hire a disability attorney to help them through the process. This can greatly reduce wait times and stress during the application and/or appeals process.

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