If a person is applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), they generally need the money as soon as possible to offset their living expenses and medical costs due to their disability. It is discouraging to learn that it might take months or even longer to get an answer from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The SSA’s dataset
The SSA provides a dataset that counts the average number of days it takes from the time a person files for SSDI through the date their first payment is made or the date the application for reconsideration is denied for medical reasons.
For fiscal year 2022, the average amount of processing time for an SSDI application was 183 days, or just over six months. However, due to a backlog in the processing of claims, the actual amount of time it takes for a person to have their application for benefits approved can be much longer, especially if multiple appeals are necessary.
As of March 2023, there were more than 1 million new applications for SSDI that had yet to be reviewed. While the number of new applications has not changed much year-to-year, the average processing time across the nation for a new application rose to almost 7.5 months compared to four months in 2019.
This delay is attributed to staffing shortages and a lack of funding. The SSA reported that since the pandemic it experienced a 7% reduction in its workforce, and current attrition rates sit at 25%. To address the issue, the SSA asked Congress for $800 million that would be funneled towards processing claims.
Unfortunately, these delays cause many applicants to suffer significant hardships. Approximately 8,000 applicants had no other means of financial assistance during the processing time and had to declare bankruptcy due to the delay in approval of benefits. Sadly, 10,000 applicants lose their lives each year without ever having been approved for the benefits that could have allowed them to afford a better standard of living and medical care.
Applicants who are approved for benefits after their initial application is submitted or following reconsideration are lucky. Many applicants must appeal a denial of benefits, although they often eventually see success as well. Giving up will get an applicant nowhere. Waiting out the process and appealing a denial if needed can ultimately lead to an award of benefits.