Applications for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits significantly dropped during the first three quarters of 2020 compared to the first three quarters of 2019. Additionally, applications trended down over each quarter of this year and benefit awards also dropped quarter by quarter.
“The National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR) attributes these declines to the closing of Social Security field offices and the fact more SSA staff members are working remotely due to the pandemic,” said Jeffrey Freedman, managing attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC, a law firm that has been handling SSD claims for more than 40 years.
According to Stacy Cloyd, director of policy and administrative advocacy at NOSSCR, the decision to apply for SSD benefits is a complex and personal issue, further complicated by the difficulty claimants now face in reaching staff at Social Security.
“Just as with many other agencies and services, Social Security has had to close offices and have their staff work remotely. Phone wait times are unbearably long, especially for applicants who have physical and mental disabilities,” Cloyd said. “We understand the transition to working remotely has been difficult for the Social Security Administration, and our organization and its members are trying to work with the agency as effectively as possible to put services back on track for claimants.”
The decline in applications and benefit awards speak to how the COVID pandemic has made a challenging life event even more difficult for individuals who cannot work due to physical or mental impairments, Freedman said.
“These are significant drops in applicants at a time when there is very high unemployment,” he said. “The indication is that right now, people who have become ill or who have been injured and can no longer work are falling through the cracks instead of landing on the safety net that Social Security benefits are intended to provide.
“NOSSCR and its members want claimants to know we are here to help negotiate the process of applying for SSD during these very difficult times.”
During typical years, more than 60 percent of SSD applicants are denied at the initial application stage and face two years of working through the appeals process before they are awarded benefits. Having a knowledgeable claimant’s representative who can guide applicants through the system as efficiently as possible is even more critical as the country negotiates its way through this crisis.
If you or someone you know needs help with SSD benefits, call us at 855-847-8969. We’ve helped over 20,000 individuals with their SSD and SSI claims.