As Social Security Disability Claims Rise, Approval Rates Increase
Though the backlog of Social Security Disability claims continues to rise, approval rates increased nationwide in Fiscal Year 2020. In late April, the Social Security Administration released the nationwide approval and denial rates for each level of the Social Security Disability decision making process. All three levels of the process which include application, reconsideration, and hearings, showed increased approvals in FY 2020.
Yet, though we are seeing an increase in approval rates across the board, it must also be noted that wait times, as well as the backlog, has increased. While the approval rates for Social Security Disability claims have either risen or stayed the same across the board, wait times for receipt of the benefits have grown. The COVID-19 pandemic has also hampered the application process significantly, forcing applicants to endure longer wait times.
FY 2020 saw a 30% growth in the backlog of pending initial applicants, bringing that number up to approximately 763,747. Furthermore, the average wait time increased by 11 days or 9.2%. The 2020 average wait time was up to 131 days on average for applications to be processed. The reconsideration wait period rose by 11.9%. The hearing level wait times decreased, however, with processing times coming down from 506 days to 386, or a drop of 24%.
The improvement in decision rates was largest at the hearing level, increasing from 45% to 49% of claims. The first stage, the initial application, saw an approval rate increase from 37% to 39%. The reconsideration rate only increased slightly, moving from 13% to 14%.
Again, while the approval rates show signs of improvement and more people are receiving benefits, the backlog and waiting period continues to increase. The Social Security Administration recently provided a message to the public regarding their outlook for the future of the program. The SSA indicated that the new budgets for Social Security will allow this administration to recover from the pandemic’s disruptions, and come back even stronger.