Americans Die While Waiting to Have a Social Security Hearing
September 18, 2020
Every year, people who are trying to obtain Social Security income and/or disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) die or experience extreme financial duress without ever reaching a resolution on their claim. According to new data from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), nearly 110,000 Americans died without ever having their claims heard between 2008 and 2019. The average wait time for an appeal falls somewhere between 506 and 839 days, and during that same time approximately 50,000 Americans who were waiting on a Social Security hearing also filed for bankruptcy.
The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) two main programs, Social Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSI and SSDI) are designed to help working-age adults who cannot work due to a mental or physical disability and lower-income people. The SSA says it typically accepts about one-quarter of the applicants who apply – but filing an appeal is also proven to be quite effective. Approval rates for appeals hover around an impressive 49%. Despite their generally positive outcome, appeals take a long time. People pay into Social Security benefits as they work throughout their lives, yet they sometimes have to overcome several obstacles when it comes to obtaining assistance that they have earned.
Somewhere around 10,000 people who are struggling to stay afloat while not being able to work die each year without getting the benefits that they need to survive. The criterion for SSDI and SSI is fairly straightforward. For SSDI you must have worked both long and recently enough and been paying into Social Security, therefore being “insured”, in order to receive benefits. SSI goes to disabled children and adults who have limited access to resources and income. The medical requirements are similar for SSI and SSDI, too, with benefits being paid to individuals who have conditions expected to last at least one year or more or to result in death.
Individuals who are waiting to receive Social Security benefits often face other hardships along the way, like evictions, sicknesses and other health concerns, and gas, electric, and/or water shut offs. With unemployment rates at an all-time high in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, economists worry about the ripples it may cause amongst Social Security recipients and applicants. SSI and SSDI benefits help sustain people who are unable to work due to illnesses, disabilities, and injuries..
Having an experienced attorney on your side can help. Not only does an applicant need to prove that he or she cannot perform regular work tasks, but also that he or she is unable to conduct other types of work as well. If an applicant’s claim is denied and they request a hearing, they should prepare to have their testimony heard by the administrative law judge. The individual has the right to have an attorney represent him or her at the hearing to present testimony as well as to cross examine the vocational expert if one is present.
It is a travesty that more than 1% of all Americans who filed appeals for benefits died before they ever received a legal decision on their claims. Injured individuals and those who are otherwise unable to work are legally entitled to benefits that their own labor has paid for. If you are waiting to have a hearing on Social Security benefits and would like to discuss having legal representation, someone at our firm can help. Lawyers on our team fight hard to represent individuals filing appeals for Social Security. To learn more, contact a representative online now.
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