The Social Security Administration has closed over sixty field offices since fiscal 2010. This has resulted in less access to social security resources for claimants and tremendous wait times on the SSA’s toll-free line. As Congress has reduced the SSA’s operating budget over the past eight years, the number of folks receiving benefits rose 17 percent.
In the Denver area, the average wait time to have a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) is 18 months. Nationally, the line is 1.1 million disability claimants for 1,600 ALJs. In the interim, claimants may not make more than the “substantial gainful activity threshold,” i.e. $1,180 in 2018.
Bills still arrive in the mail, credit card limits get maxed and credit scores plummet. Friends and family may be able to help, but the extreme delay strains these relationships. Although not every claimant meets the criteria to be considered disabled, they at least should be able to bring a claim and have it adjudicated in a timely manner. Moreover, eligible claimants with chronic illnesses urgently need benefits to fight for their lives. When resources are already low, it is painfully demoralizing when an administration’s budget pillages them further. For many, this means that the arduous wait will only continue to grow and the promise of help unfulfilled.