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Knowledge of the Social Security Disability process is important

While Social Security is often thought of as a benefits program for seniors, it offers other types of benefits as well including disability for those who are unable to work because of physical or mental medical conditions. Those who are denied Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits have certain rights to appeal but this process can be lengthy; recent economic conditions and aging baby boomers have caused caseloads for administrative judges who hear appeals to surge from 589,4449 to 810,715 during fiscal years 2008 to 2014.

With a backlog of greater than 990,000 cases and 1,445 judges to hear appeals of appeals in person, the process can be frustrating to everyone involved. Applicants at that stage in the appeals' process can wait over a year for a decision concerning benefits. Other government programs also have backlogs, however, disabled individuals often await a decision with little or no income, making the process especially frustrating and difficult.

The process begins when an applicant submits an application for benefits and allows a state official, affiliated with the Social Security Administration, to review the applicant's medical records. This process typically takes around three months. After the initial application, 32 percent of applications are approved and the remaining percentage has to appeal. Approximately 170,000 people are waiting for this step which takes around three months and has only an 11 percent approval rate.

The next step in the process is an appeal to a judge in person (and in 10 states applicants who have been denied may move directly to this step). If denied by a judge, the applicant can appeal to the Social Security Appeals Council which has 150,383 applicants awaiting determinations and takes a little over a year to receive a decision. While numbers have varied significantly, today 44 percent of appeals to judges are approved but with a caseload of applicants that has increased by 13,000 during the first half of October 2014, long waits remain the norm.

Because of the importance Social Security Disability benefits represent for many disabled individuals who suffer from an inability to work, and the nature of the process, it is important to have a solid knowledge and understanding of how to apply for benefits. Families may depend on benefits so it is important to know what to do when denied Social Security benefits.

Source: Washington Post, "Waiting on a Social Security disability appeal? Get in line. A very long line," Oct. 19, 2014

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