For the two million Americans currently seeking Social Security disability benefits, an already tedious process has become even more frustrating. Nearly two-thirds of initial disability applications are rejected and many applicants continue to wait for two years or more during the appeals process. Payments are made retroactively for claimants that are ultimately successful; for many people, however, they need benefits now and the wait is simply too much.
If past trends continue, an estimated 3.3 million people may be seeking benefits in 2010, an increase of approximately 10% over 2009. The spike in claims is adding stress to an overloaded system; more claimants means longer wait times for people when they need help the most. The additional strain is overworking caseworkers and leaving millions unable to make ends meet or staring at rising debt from their inability to work.
Why Are More People Seeking Benefits?
Like many other things, the uptick in benefits applications can be traced back to the current economic downturn. Countless people who had previously "played through the pain" and continued to work in spite of suffering from a legally recognized disability now find themselves without a job. And, ironically, those people cannot find new jobs doing what they know how to do because of their physical or mental disabilities. People must turn to filing disability claims to help pay the rent or mortgage as well as put food on the table.
Can Anything Be Done to Speed the Process?
Skilled attorneys with in-depth knowledge of the Social Security disability process can recognize the circumstances that could speed things along. For example, if you are a veteran (regardless of whether you have already received benefits from the Department of Veterans' Affairs), it may be possible to have your initial application evaluated sooner and/or your appeal heard sooner. There are also certain particularly devastating medical conditions appearing on the Social Security Administration's list of "Compassionate Allowance Conditions" that could result in a quicker award of benefits.
If you are stuck waiting for your disability benefits, it's important to seek the advice of a lawyer with knowledge and experience of the system. An attorney can help you obtain benefits when you need them the most.