Good News: If you are – or know someone — applying for Social Security disability benefits, the waiting time for a decision is likely to be shorter rather than longer.
Since 1999, the number of people waiting for a decision on disability benefits swelled — and the waiting times became longer and longer. The results were often tragic – people lost their homes, families broke apart, people did not get badly needed medical care. Sad to say, nearly every year some people died while waiting for a decision.
Now – for the first time in a decade – the Social Security Administration has reduced both the number of people waiting for decisions on their disability applications and the waiting time to get a decision. SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue made the announcement in a recent press release.
We’ve been fighting for this for many years. The problem is that for many years, the Social Security Administration’s work load went up but its budget went down. The strains on the Social Security Administration became worse as the Baby Boomers began to retire. Finally, there was a small budget increase in 2008 and a more substantial increase in 2009.
Bad News: The recession threatens to overwhelm the recent improvements – and may make the waiting times pop right back up. The number of people applying for both disability and retirement benefits is rising dramatically. In a recession, people with disabilities and seniors who lose their jobs and cannot find another apply for Social Security retirement and disability benefits.
Stephen C. Goss, a top Social Security official, recently said that normally about 2.5 million people apply for disability benefits each year. By contrast, as of September 30, 2009, the annual applications were expected to be 3 million – with even higher numbers yet to come. “When there’s a bad recession and we lose 6 million jobs, people of all types are going to be part of that,” Goss said.