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Freeze on government hiring may worsen SSDI delays

This blog, as well as many other sources, have catalogued the serious problem with expeditious handling of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. As we have discussed, most SSDI applications tend to be denied at the first level of scrutiny, requiring applicants to enter into an appeals system which may ultimately lead to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. These hearings can take months or years to occur, leaving a disabled applicant without benefits or the ability to work.

According to the Social Security Administration, the average waiting time for a hearing on an SSDI appeal in May of 2016 was 526 days. At that point there were over 1.1 million applicants awaiting a decision on their eligibility for benefits. And, it may be about to get worse.

To try to ease the backlog, the SSA was hoping to hire close to 2000 more ALJs by 2018. Unfortunately for disabled New Jersey residents waiting on a hearing, that is now not likely to happen. One of the first actions of the new presidential administration this month was an executive order halting any hiring by federal government agencies. In fact, the order references a supposedly forthcoming plan to shrink the federal workforce.

While the fact that cases take such a long time to be heard and decided can't be laid at the door of any one political party or administration, according to the union that represents ALJs, these recent actions are likely to increase wait times for decisions on SSDI appeals across the board. This means that getting an application for social security disability benefits approved during the first phase of review may become even more important for New Jersey residents who are unable to work due to a physical or mental disability. Because of this, they may wish to consider seeking the help of an experienced disability attorney.

Source: Bloomberg, "Trump's Hiring Freeze May Worsen 526-Day Disability Case Backlog," Josh Eidelson, January 27, 2017

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