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Wait times for Social Security reach nearly two years nationwide

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Wait times for Social Security Disability hearings have reached an average of almost two years.

For people waiting for a hearing before an administrative judge to learn whether or not they have been approved for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, everyday can be a struggle to keep up with bills and expenses. That's because wait times for hearings have reached absurdly long levels. As the Washington Post reports, the national average wait time for a disposition has reached 596 days and in some cities it is much higher, with some people waiting three years or more for a hearing.

Average wait times soar

As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, most people get denied disability benefits when they first apply. They then typically appeal the decision, which is where the backlog in Social Security applications occurs. Currently there are 1.1 million SSDI applicants waiting for a hearing from just 1,600 Social Security administrative judges. With funding to Social Security having remained stagnant since 2010, wait times are ballooning. While the average wait time across the country is now two years, in some cities it is much higher, with Miami being particularly high at nearly three years.

The lack of funding for Social Security Administration has meant that there are simply not enough judges or support staff to process hearings quickly enough. Furthermore, new regulations have also been recently introduced requiring lengthier medical evidence, resulting in judges having to take more time to read longer files. As a result, the average Social Security administrative judge only gets through 10 cases per week now, down from 12 per week in 2011.

Struggling to get by

The long wait times are more than many people can handle. While everybody should have a "rainy day" fund, few people will have enough money saved up to cover them for a waiting period lasting two to three years. As a result, many of those waiting for a hearing whose disability prevents them from working have to charge major expenses to their credit cards. The stress of going into debt and waiting so long to even get a hearing before a judge often leads to severe anxiety, which is in itself a serious condition that may require expensive pharmaceutical treatment or which could worsen existing conditions.

The need for an attorney

The long wait times underscore why it is so important for those applying for Social Security Disability benefits to have an attorney on their side. With wait times so long, applicants need to make sure they do their due diligence and do everything possible to ensure the hearing goes their way. An attorney can help clients build a strong case, thus maximizing their chances of succeeding during t heir first hearing and minimizing their chances of having to go to the back of the queue for an appeal.

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