In Georgia, a worker with an injury or illness that will keep them out of work for a year or more can look to Social Security Disability Insurance for financial assistance. This federal program is funded by the U.S. workforce. However, a burgeoning backlog is preventing injured and ill workers from getting the financial assistance they need.
The initial application can take months to process. In 2016, for example, Social Security processing centers in the Southeast Region were taking almost three months to process applications. And, that is before the application is forwarded to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in the state where the applicant lives. DDS must then complete a disability determination before any benefits can be paid.
Workers who apply for SSD benefits have typically paid into the program for more than 20 years before submitting an application. But, many who need the benefits to cover medical expenses and to make up for lost wages are waiting months before receiving them, if they receive them at all. In the event that an applicant requests a hearing, the wait times jump to well over a year.
In Georgia, it currently takes between 16 (Macon) and 20 (Atlanta) months from the time a worker requests a Social Security hearing and for the hearing to actually take place. Nationally, more than 10,000 people died in the last year while waiting for a hearing. The average wait time for a hearing in 2017 was 200 days longer than it was in 2013.
The assistance of an experienced SSDI attorney during the initial process can ensure that an application for SSD benefits is completed properly, avoiding a denial over a technicality. This, in turn, sidesteps the need for a hearing. On the other hand, if an applicant needs to appeal a denial or disability determination, an experienced attorney can improve the chances for a successful outcome.
Source: The Hill, “Reforms are needed to fix Social Security Disability Insurance backlog,” Jackie Walorski, Dec. 18, 2017