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SSDI benefits award may be preceded by long wait times

Social Security disability benefits provide financial support for many Tennessee residents. Unfortunately, however, they may not always be available immediately when a person needs them. The process for applying for Social Security disability can be time consuming, and the wait long.

Some applicants have to wait years and wade through multiple levels of the appeals process before they obtain benefits. One applicant, prevented from working due to arthritis, open-heart surgery and diabetes, ultimately became homeless while she had to wait over two years for a chance to prove she qualified for SSD benefits. Another applicant died before his request for benefits was ultimately approved.

Some areas of the country have administrative judges overwhelmed by the number of appeals they must review, leading to average wait times of up to 22 months. The national average to obtain a hearing before an administrative law judge is 16 months, plus an additional four or five months before a decision is made. Many of those persons who bring their denied Social Security claims before an administrative judge will eventually obtain benefits, however.

The good news is that the Social Security Administration is seeking to reduce applicants' wait times to approximately nine months or less over the next five years. They anticipate hiring additional judges and conducting more video hearings to expedite the backlogs. It is significant to note that overall approval rates have declined in recent years, from 56 percent approved in 2011 to 44 percent in 2015, according to the SSA. Interestingly, denials take more time and paperwork than approvals do.

The wait times may seem daunting for some Tennesseans, but those who need benefits should know that with diligence, and the proper help, it is possible to obtain much-needed disability benefits. Moreover, it is important to note that the wait times are not set in stone and some applicants may receive approval for benefits promptly.

Source: union-bulletin.com, "Waits plague Social Security disability process", Kelli Kennedy, Dec. 11, 2015

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