More than a million disabled workers are waiting in limbo to see if the qualify for benefits for which they have already paid. In the last two years, more than 18,000 such workers have died while waiting for a hearing to determine whether they were eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Nationally, claimants who request a hearing wait an average of 20 months before being heard. Claimants in Georgia are seeing similar wait times with some Atlanta applicants waiting even longer to determine whether they’ll be able to receive benefits from a program they paid into throughout their careers.
The benefits from SSDI come from a fund – just like Social Security retirement benefits – that has been created by withholding from wages. Anyone who has worked and contributed is eligible for the SSD benefits if they have suffered a qualifying injury or illness that affects their ability to continue working. The initial claims process can take several months or more. But if the initial application is rejected, you must request a hearing to determine your eligibility for benefits – and that can take years.
So what can you do to get the benefits you need? Honestly, there’s really nothing you can do to speed the process. A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) made some pointed recommendations about improving the process to the Social Security Administration, which SSA accepted and agreed to undertake. However, there is no telling when the improved processes will be implemented.
One thing the GAO report did point out, though, is that claimants with representatives, such as attorneys, were successful in obtaining SSD benefits three times more often than unrepresented claimants. A seasoned lawyer with SSDI experience can help you at the outset, with the initial application, to ensure that all necessary information is provided and deadlines are met, so that your claim isn’t denied on a technicality. And if you do need a hearing, clearly, having an experienced attorney by your side improves your chances of success. Visit the SSDI page on our website to see how our experience can help you.