Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Attorneys at Law

New rule may affect backlog of disability benefits claims

No matter how badly a person in Alabama needs them, the process of getting Social Security disability benefits is an arduous one. Not only is there the possibility that one's claim will be denied, necessitating a lengthy appeal, but it can take a long time just to get a decision from the Social Security Administration at all.

For example, around 45 percent disability applicants are approved for benefits. For those who are not approved for benefits, it can take as many as 600 days to obtain a hearing to appeal the denial of benefits.

This backlog in the Social Security disability benefits application decisions really began snowballing around a decade ago. The "Great Recession" saw many individuals with disabilities lose their jobs. As of now, over one million individuals nationwide are still waiting for a hearing to determine whether they qualify for benefits. This is made even more burdensome due to the fact that the budget for the Social Security Administration has gone down 10 percent over the past seven years.

To make matters worse, the agency will no longer give special consideration to an applicant's physician who has been treating the applicant. This means that the opinion of an applicant's physician stands on the same ground as the opinion of a medical consultant that may have only briefly examined the applicant. This could lead to more applicants being denied social security, especially if their medical condition is complicated.

While this all may not come as good news, it should not dissuade people from applying for Social Security disability benefits if they need them. Despite the backlog, with time a person may be approved for benefits. And, should they be denied benefits, they still have the right to appeal. However, due to the large amount of time this all takes, it can help to have the help of an attorney from the get-go, to ensure one's initial application is as thorough as possible.

Source: KCUR 89.3, "New Rule May Worsen Backlog For Social Security Disability Claimants," Alex Smith, June 7, 2017

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