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Nearly 110,000 died waiting for Social Security Disability hearing

While Social Security provides much-needed benefits to more than 8 million Americans who could not continue working due to disabilities, a recent news report sheds light on the SSD application process, which it calls “a bureaucratic nightmare.”

CBS News says a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that from 2008 to 2019, nearly “110,000 people died as they awaited an appeal after initially being denied Social Security disability benefits.”

The snail’s pace of the SSD appeals process is shameful. The GAO says that by 2015, the appeals backlog had slowed to an average wait-time of 839 days – that means waiting more than 2 years and 3 months.

There’s a sliver of good news from the GAO, however: by last year, the backlog had shrunk to 506 days (about one year and four months).

A Pennsylvania attorney who helps people apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) told CBS that her office has “had clients who have died while they were waiting for hearings” and that other clients have had “horrible outcomes” while waiting, including declining health, eviction, utility shut-offs and more.

There are worries now that the coronavirus pandemic will result in a rise in SSD applications, as the Great Recession did more than a decade ago. If there’s a substantial increase in disability claims, it’s likely that the appeals process will again lengthen.

CBS points out that an SSD “appeal has a good chance of succeeding,” with nearly half of those who filed appeals from 2008 to 2019 ultimately gaining approval for disability benefits.

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