When you need Social Security Disability benefits—because your health is bad, you can’t work, and your financial situation is a mess—it’s an urgent situation.
That’s why one of the first questions I hear from new clients as a disability lawyer is, “How long does it take to get Social Security Disability benefits?”
Monthly checks to ease your financial worries can’t come soon enough.
For most of the time I’ve been handling Social Security Disability claims (over 20 years), the timeframe for initial applications for disability benefits and initial reconsiderations of benefits denials has been fairly consistent.
But from 2020 to 2022, something changed.
I’ve been watching initial applications and reconsiderations for workers in Wisconsin grind to a halt.
Now, it’s sadly common for these initial steps to take a year or more.
So what’s going on?
The first suspect in this dragging out of Social Security Disability claims may be the COVID-19 pandemic.
The delays seemed to start when the pandemic hit.
When the coronavirus first started to spread, Social Security closed its offices to in-person services. Social Security employees switched to working from home.
Telephone wait times at Social Security appeared to increase. One government report found that Social Security developed a major backlog of unprocessed mail, including applications for benefits.
But there may be another, bigger reason for the delays I’m now seeing: staff cuts at the Social Security Administration (SSA).
And this problem goes back to long before COVID-19.
Since 2010, Congress has cut Social Security’s operating budget by 17 percent.
That has meant closing field offices and reducing staff members.
Wisconsin has been one of the worst-hit states.
Wisconsin went from 724 Social Security employees in 2010 to 553 in 2021—a 24 percent drop.
The number of people who work specifically on determining disability claims went down in Wisconsin by 14 percent.
In the past year or so, I have received numerous inquires from clients who are understandably concerned about how long it’s taking to process their disability claims.
There’s not much you can do to speed up the Social Security Administration—short of telling your representative in Congress to restore funding for Social Security operations.
But to avoid any more delays than necessary, you want to be sure you handle your disability claim with care.
Rates of denials of disability benefits have been high for many years, too. A mistake in your application or initial appeal could send you down more paths of appealing—which adds even more time.
A disability lawyer can help you get through the process as smoothly as possible—and keep you updated on what’s going on as you wait.
As a Wisconsin disability attorney, I want to see my clients getting the financial relief they need to move forward with their lives.
Let’s hope that starts happening a little faster.
Written by Tim Geary.
Disclaimer: Blog entries are not intended to be a substitute for actual legal advice. It is important for a representative to understand the specific facts and circumstances of your case before they can provide you actual legal advice. If you have questions about your Social Security Disability benefits, please contact a qualified representative to discuss your case.
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