SSA Budget Cuts: Thousands of SSD Applicants Died While Waiting for Hearings

Middle aged woman sitting on bed, looking upset

Congressional budget cuts to the Social Security Administration (SSA) over the course of the past eight years have forced the SSA to reduce staff, leading to long wait times and delays in resolving benefit issues. The impacts of the budget cuts are felt sharply by disabled and retired Americans who depend on these benefits to survive. Unfortunately, this has resulted in significant delays in disability benefit appeal hearings, and thousands of people have died waiting for the benefits they desperately needed.

SSA’s Budget Significantly Reduced, While Number of Beneficiaries Increased

In 2010, Congress reduced the SSA’s operating budget to 9%, forcing the SSA to make difficult financial decisions, such as closing 67 field offices in both rural and urban areas.

Ironically, the need for Social Security benefits has increased by 17% from 2010-2018, the same time period when the budget was significantly reduced. Therefore, the SSA’s efforts to meet beneficiaries’ needs at this crucial time fell short without the necessary funding.

Excessive Wait Times and Delays Frustrate Those in Need

As a result of the budget cuts and reductions in staff, the administration’s remaining 1,229 offices have experienced increased wait times, and callers to the agency’s toll-free line face excessive hold times. According to the National Council of Social Security Management Associations, the average wait time to see an agent in a field office in 2018 was 27 minutes, an increase of 37% from 2010.

Disability Applicants Face Long Delays, Thousands Die Waiting for a Hearing

Unfortunately, reductions in service have caused long delays for Social Security Disability applicants awaiting appeals.

Over the last eight years, the backlog in disability appeal cases has grown substantially. In 2018, the average wait for a hearing decision was 591 days, which represents an increase of 39% since 2010.

Those in need of disability benefits have severe health issues which require medical treatment. Long delays in the appeals process can be devastating to those who are suffering from a disability, and can no longer work. They often do not have a source of income to pay for their daily needs and medical bills, and are forced to sell their homes or go bankrupt.

Sadly, many are unable to afford treatment without benefits, and have no choice but to keep waiting for their benefits while their health declines.

9,714 people died waiting for an appeal in 2016, which is highly disturbing and unacceptable.

Potential Relief on the Horizon

While the agency’s budget is now increasing, the SSA is working to reduce the number of backlogged cases and claims. Lawmakers raised the agency’s administrative budget by $480 million, and approved a $40 million increase to the operating budget for 2019. In addition, Social Security has installed video kiosks in some remote locations to connect claimants with field offices. They hope improvements to infrastructure will help them better address customer-service needs.

Providing Benefits to a Growing Number of Beneficiaries

During 2019, the SSA projects it will provide $1.1 trillion in benefits to 69 million Americans. This includes disability and retirement benefits, as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Over the next two decades, the agency expects beneficiary rolls will increase by 43% as the United States population ages. This year alone, the agency expects it will serve 43 million visitors at field offices and will handle 75 million telephone calls.

We Can Help

If you are disabled and unable to work, call Disability Attorneys of Michigan for a free confidential consultation. We’ll let you know if we can help you get a monthly check and help you determine if any money or assets you receive could impact your eligibility for disability benefits.

Disability Attorneys of Michigan works hard every day helping the disabled of Michigan seek the Social Security Disability and Veterans Disability benefits they need. If you are unable to work due to a physical, mental or cognitive impairment, call Disability Attorneys of Michigan now for a free consultation at 800-949- 2900.

Let Michigan’s experienced disability law firm help you get the benefits you deserve.

Disability Attorneys of Michigan, Compassionate Excellence.

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I will never forget you and the hard work you did to secure my Social Security Disability benefits. Thank you!

- Christine C.