Disability claims filed through Social Security are being stymied by the backlog produced during the pandemic, Metro East-based Allsup said.
The Social Security Administration this week released the nationwide approval and denial rates for each level of the Social Security disability decision-making process for fiscal year 2020, according to Allsup, which is located in Belleville and is a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits representation.
Approval rates at the application, reconsideration and hearing levels all increased over the past year.
“While disability claims approval rates across all levels either rose or stayed the same, SSDI claimants are waiting even longer for benefits,” said Steve Perrigo, Allsup vice president. “Applicants are paying the price for the lengthy SSA office closures caused by the pandemic, and this step backward threatens to reverse the progress made on the hearing backlog if left unaddressed.”
In FY 2020, the backlog of pending initial applications rose by 30 percent, from 593,944 to 763,747. Also, processing times for those applications increased, requiring 11 days longer than the prior year at 131 days on average for the SSA to process. Wait times at the first appeal (or reconsideration) rose by 13 days to 122 days, while claims pending at this level increased from 133,503 to 143,781. At the hearing level, the number of pending claims declined from 575,421 to 418,313, and processing times dropped from 506 days to 386 days in FY2020.
In terms of decision rates, the largest change occurred at the hearing level, where the nationwide approval rate increased from 45 percent to 49 percent of claims. The initial application approval rate also rose from 37 percent to 39 percent, and the nationwide reconsideration approval rate increased slightly from 13 percent to 14 percent.
“It’s encouraging to see a higher rate of claimants being awarded Social Security disability benefits at the hearing level, but the lengthy wait times individuals are having to endure to even receive that decision represent an undue hardship for millions of Americans, who depend on those benefits to provide for their families and themselves,” said Perrigo.