More than 1 million Americans are waiting for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge to find out if they are entitled to disability benefits after being denied initially.
Most people who complete the appeals process will eventually win benefits, but many are so sick they die before receiving them.
Approximately 10.5 million people receive Social Security disability benefits. An additional 8 million receive disability benefits from Supplemental Security Income, which is a disability program for poor people who do not qualify for Social Security. Last year, the SSA paid out $197 billion in disability benefits.
In 2016, there were over 7,000 people on waitlists for hearings who were dead, according to a report by the SSA’s inspector general.
The average wait time for a hearing is now 602 days. In 2012, it was less than a year.
The SSA says it is working to reduce the backlog by hiring 500 new ALJs and over 600 support staff. But the budget has remained almost the same as it was since 2011, despite an additional 6 million people receiving either retirement or disability benefits from Social Security.