Thursday, July 08, 2010

Social Security Backlog Growing in 2010

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That Social Security Disability has a significant backlog of applicants is certainly not news. Unfortunately, the backlog is continuing to grow. The Social Security commissioner expects about 3.3 million people to apply for benefits in 2010. This is an increase of 300,000 more than in 2009 and 700,000 more than in 2008. But his goal is to eliminate the backlog by 2013.

People are currently waiting as long as two years for their first disability benefits payment. For people who live in the states of Alaska, Ohio, Michigan or Minnesota wait times are even longer. About 2/3 of applicants will be denied benefits initially and have to endure the appeal process.

There are any number of reasons why people do not initially receive benefits, but a big reason is the confusing, intimidating nature of the application process. Applicants often don't know what the people reviewing the application are looking for (whether you are able to work at any job) and don't believe they can afford to hire a professional to help their with their applications. After all, being unable to work usually doesn't leave you with any extra money even if you have enough to make ends meet. Another huge obstacle involves doctors who are unwilling to work with you to make your claim as strong as possible.

Qualifying for disability benefits is not easy. A doctor must determine that a disability is severe enough to interfere with an applicant's ability to work. If applicants can't perform their old jobs, officials see if they can adapt to new ones. The system is designed to weed out malingerers.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the average wait time is a little more than two years, including the time it takes to file appeals at each stage of the process. Since the current Social Security commissioner took office in 2007 he has hired additional administrative law judges and support staff. For the first time in 10 years the average number of cases pending before each administrative law judge dropped by 37,000. The average time required for processing of claims at that stage also dropped. Allsup, a disability claims representation corporation, provides a state-by-state map of the backlog in all 50 states: Allsup's State-by-State Backlog Analysis.

Because of the backlog it is extremely important to make your case as strong as possible from the outset. These tips may help:
  • Focus on how your health issues prevent you from working.
  • Kill them with details. Be thorough.
  • Get your doctors on board.
  • Gather documentation: Names, addresses & phone numbers of all doctors who have treated you; dates you were seen by your doctors; names of medications you are taking and the reasons why you take them (your pharmacy can help); the medical tests you've had and where you had them; medical records; and the jobs you've worked at for the past 15 years before becoming disabled and the tasks you performed at those jobs.
  • Make copies of everything you submit and keep a file.
  • Don't limit your answers to the space provided on a form. 
  • Brainstorm your answers before you start writing on the forms.
  • Strictly follow deadlines.
  • Hire a professional if you can.

If you have other questions, please feel free to ask in a comment on this blog post or send an email to me.

Spike in Disability Claims Clogs Overloaded System

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.