Why are wait times so long for Social Security disability benefits?

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2023 | Social Security Disability |

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a vital lifeline for millions of Americans who cannot work due to disabilities. In recent years, the wait time to receive disability benefits has steadily increased, leaving many applicants waiting several months or even years for claims processing.

The long wait times for Social Security disability benefits stem from various factors.

A large backlog and fewer employees

The number of disability claims filed has increased steadily over the years. According to the SSA, nearly 8 million Americans receive disability benefits monthly. The backlog of cases also significantly contributes to the long wait times for disability benefits. Due to office closures and staffing shortages in recent years, this backlog has only been exacerbated.

The administration attempting to keep up with the growing number of claims while working with limited employees leads to long wait times for applicants.

A lengthy appeals process

According to USAFacts, an estimated two out of three applicants faces denial of their initial request for disability benefits. The appeals process for denied disability claims can add even more waiting time. Appealing a denied claim involves several levels of review, including reconsideration at Disability Determination Services (DDSs), a judicial hearing, a review by the SSA appeals council and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. The average wait time for the first step of appeal, reconsidering by DDSs, is five months.

Overall, the average wait time for an initial decision increased by several months in recent years. Speaking with an attorney before filing disability claims can help eliminate these massive delays.