It is now taking approximately 14 months from the moment you ask for a social security disability hearing to get your hearing scheduled with a judge.
The judges have an unprecedented backlog of almost 1 million cases. These are hard decisions because a person receiving disability benefits will receive an average of $300,000 over a lifetime.
The number of people seeking disability benefits has gone up dramatically since 2008 for two reasons:
The Great Recession that began in 2008 put a lot of people out of work. Many people applied for disability benefits to try to make ends meet. This problem is slowly being reduced as the economy recovers, but there are still many people who apply for disability benefits because they don’t know what else to do.
Baby boomers are getting close to retirement age. Disability is less hard to get when a person turns 50 years old, and even less hard when the person turns 55 years old. Many people cannot work strenuous jobs, being on their feet and lifting things all day, all the way until they reach their full retirement age. Because they cannot do their usual strenuous work anymore, they may qualify for disability. Many baby boomers have entered this age group and find they cannot keep working in their strenuous jobs, adding to the number of people applying for disability.
Social Security’s administrative law judges are doing the best they can, there are simply not enough judges to handle the case load.
In very rare circumstances, you or your lawyer can ask Social Security to have a hearing scheduled more quickly: if you are nearing death, and sometimes if you are truly homeless or face other drastic circumstances. Everyone waiting for a decision is facing a very difficult crisis in their lives. Therefore, for you to jump the line and get a hearing more quickly than everyone else you have to be experiencing significantly worse circumstances than everyone else.