The Social Security Administration (SSA) is faced with an enormous backlog of claims and applications at the agency’s Social Security DisabilIty program, a backlog that has created headaches and concerns for both the government and the disabled workers seeking to get the help they need and deserve.

In fact, the backlog is so great that the SSA has added a special appeals code, DXDI, that indicates the case was dismissed because the applicant died while awaiting an appeals hearing. This means that the backlog is so great that some people never get the benefits they need and deserve.

Some legislators, including Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, say that the backlog has led to swift approval of claims without proper investigation in an effort to clear the piles of applications and reduce the logjam. According to a Congressional report, a committee investigated 300 disability cases and found that in nearly 25 percent of those cases, decisions to award benefits “failed to properly address insufficient, contradictory, or incomplete evidence.” However, with more than 815,000 cases still pending at the end of Fiscal Year 2012, one wonders if an examination of only 300 cases can adequately reflect a thorough analysis of how benefits are awarded in the Social Security Disability program. Those awaiting disability benefits say that, rather than having their cases quickly awarded without proper investigation of their claims, the backlog has left them stranded without the financial assistance they need to meet daily living expenses while they are unable to work.

At the end of Fiscal Year 2012, the Social Security Administration reported an average hearing-level waiting time of 353 days. Though Sen. Coburn and others say that Administrative Law Judges are frivolously awarding undeserved benefits to reduce this waiting time, the first part of 2013 shows that the waiting time has actually increased to 361 days. Furthermore, despite the claims of undeserved awards, the statistics show otherwise. In 2009, only 37 percent of claims were allowed at the initial application; in 2012, that number had dropped to 33 percent. Even more disheartening to people awaiting SSD benefits, only 52 percent of claims were approved at the hearing level in 2012, a drop of 11 percent from 63 percent 2009.

What does this mean for those who are unable to work as a result of a permanent or temporary disability? In order to maximize the chances of early approval and avoid waiting nearly a year for a hearing–or worse, having an appeal designated DXDI–it is critical to obtain the legal representation of an attorney experienced at handling Social Security Disability claims early in the process. To find a Social Security Disability lawyer in Oklahoma, fill out our free, confidential Social Security case review form to see how he can help you.