Social Security published some statistics for 2015. They call this their "waterfall" chart. Nice choice of words, given that the entire disability program appears ready to go over a cliff. For 2015, SSA took in 2.7 million applications for disability. Stop right there to ponder that number. Is it possible that many Americans tried to get disability benefits in 2015? There were roughly 320 million of us in 2015. That amounts to almost 1% of the entire population.
SSA denied 67% of those applying. Of those denied, about 700,000 filed for the first level of appeal, the request for reconsideration. If you are in a mood for bad news, try this: SSA denied 88% of the claimants who filed requests for reconsideration. The number of people who did the second level of appeal, the request for hearing, is actually higher than the total who made requests for reconsideration. That seems wrong. But, in some states claimants can skip the request for reconsideration and go directly to a hearing. One way or another, 746,300 people asked to see a judge. SSA issued 507,883 decisions in 2015. Of these, SSA approved 45%, denied 37% and dismissed 18%. For those who came up short before a judge,149,437 went on to the Appeals Council. If you are one of them, don't hold your breath: the Appeals Council denied 83% of appeals. The truly determined kept pushing all the way to U.S. District Court where their luck broke even: 45% remanded, 45% denied,with 10% going other, procedural, routes.
Nearly 1% Of All Americans Applied For Disability in 2015
Now let's get gloomier: if 746,300 people asked to see a judge and the judges issued a total of 507,883 decisions . . . . somebody is falling behind. Way behind. Keep in mind that what SSA calls a decision includes dismissals. These arise when a person foregoes his or her case or just doesn't show up. The number of decisions on the merits is thus even lower. Factor in the effect of carrying over all those cases that SSA never got to each year and you can see that the system is running out of steam. SSA's own estimate is that wait time for hearings is going to be 555 days in 2017. That's pretty much 1.5 years. Keep in mind, that 1.5 years starts after you request a hearing.
Wait Time For Hearings Will Be 555 Days In 2017
I have said it before but it bears repeating: SSA's system of adjudicating disability claims is close to falling apart. The center cannot hold. Given there is no political will to fix this mess (what politician wants to be caught dead helping the poor or the disabled?), we might see the entire thing crater. I know this sounds apocalyptic. But is there a better prediction? What do you think? Is there some Manhattan Project or some Deus Ex Machina solution out there?
More Need Than Ever To Hire A Lawyer:
If the statistics listed above show anything, it is this: you are going to need a lawyer to get disability. SSA is stacking the deck against claimants more and more each year. This means the time when you could go it alone and hope for the best is gone. If you have applied for disability, or are just thinking about doing so, call right away.
THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)