People who are injured and cannot work can face a variety of difficult circumstances including dealing with lost wages and medical expenses, as well as the prospects of long-term unemployment. Regardless of whether the person suffered a work-related injury or was injured outside of work, Social Security Disability benefits are designed to help people who are disabled to the point of not being able to work.
As long as an injured applicant meets all of the federal requirements, they should be able to qualify for SSD benefits for an injury. However, the SSD system is not always efficient and the government denies most claims after the initial application. Also, people can wait months, and even more than 500 days, to get a hearing related to an unresolved claim. Hence, the Social Security Administration is trying to take steps to help overcome the more than 1.1 million claims that are currently outstanding.
Following the SSA's initial denial of benefits, an applicant can appeal the decision to an administrative law judge, an appeals council and then to federal district court if needed. In an effort to make the system flow faster, the SSA has proposed changes that would send about 30,000 appeals per year to a group of special appeals judges rather than administrative law judges.
While the SSA's idea is supposed to alleviate pressure on the system that has led to the massive backlog of cases, the proposal has come under fire by certain advocate groups. For example, a representative of the Association of Administrative Law Judges contends that the plan would take cases from the administrative law judges, who enjoy independence from the SSA, and put those cases in front of other judges who are beholden to the SSA.
Whether the SSA ends up implementing its new initiative, the situation highlights the difficult position that many SSD applicants face when trying to seek benefits. People in the Houston area who are battling through the difficult benefits process should understand all of their legal avenues.
Source: Huffington Post, "Social Security Administration Seeks Shortcut Through Massive Disability Backlog," Arthur Delaney, May 6, 2016