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Social Security funding uncertain as disability appeals pile up

The Social Security Administration has a plan to alleviate the 600-day waits for appeals imposed on people seeking Social Security disability benefits. In Pennsylvania and nationwide, record numbers of people have been waiting for a chance to challenge their disability denials. Some Senators have spoken out in favor of the $12.5 billion requested by President Donald Trump that would fund the administrative budget for SSA during fiscal year 2018.

The presidential budget proposal differs from a current appropriations bill that cuts the administrative budget by about $460 million. If this cut goes through, then the SSA will lack the means to initiate its Compassionate and Responsive Service plan that would tackle the backlog of disability applicants awaiting an appeal hearing. With funding, the plan would allow the agency to hire additional administrative law judges and update computer systems to process cases with greater speed.

Without adequate funding, the agency expects the backlog to grow worse. The backlog that has resulted from an increasing number of people pursuing disability benefits has begun to generate bad press. Claims that thousands have died while on a wait list for an appeal have emerged.

The bureaucratic nature of applying for SS disability introduces the possibility that a person might make mistakes on an application. The assistance of an attorney during the first steps or at an appeal hearing could help a person effectively communicate the need for benefits. A lawyer's familiarity with requirements for medical evaluations and the coding of medical conditions could result in an application that passes review. Legal counsel could guide the client through the process of medical and vocational assessments.

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