Submitted by ram on Fri, 08/18/2017 - 11:54

Social Security disability claimants, attorneys and advocates have long been complaining about the increased wait times to get a hearing scheduled. The wait time to get a hearing processed in 2011 was estimated to be 360 days; in 2016 the average processing time has risen to well over 500 days and continues to rise every month.

Longer wait times have affected both claimants and their representatives negatively. Claimants who desperately need benefits to survive are forced to wait almost two years to get them. Claimant representatives are required to do work on a claim for which they will not be paid for over two years. While the situation is less than ideal for claimants and their lawyers, there are some benefits that come with long processing times.

The Obvious Benefit

The obvious benefit of longer wait times is the fact that longer wait times often lead to larger back payments, which lead to larger average fees for attorneys. While it may take two years for a firm’s client to receive benefits, it’s more likely that the attorney will receive the full $6,000 in legal fees.

The Silver Lining

In July 2017, the Board of Trustee’s (For the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds) released its 2017 annual report. In this report, the board estimates that the disability trust fund is now expected to be able to fully pay all benefits through 2028, after which point it might only be able to pay 93% of scheduled benefits. In its 2016 annual report, the board estimated that the trust fund would only be able to fully pay benefits through 2023. Thus, in just over one year, the life of the disability trust fund has been extended by five years.

This is exciting news for any Social Security attorney, as the program is guaranteed to run as usual for the next 11 years. It’s also entirely possible that Congress will allocate additional funds to Social Security within the next 10 years to protect the program’s future.

Total Amount of Benefits Paid by the System is Decreasing

The trustees state that the total amount of benefits that are paid out to disabled beneficiaries has decreased every year since 2010. While this increase can partly be attributed to a reduction in applications due to the improving economy and low unemployment rate, it can also be attributed to longer wait times, which are causing people to be added to the disability payroll at a much slower pace than in the past.

Take Away

Increasing the longevity of the trust fund at the expense of claimants who desperately need those benefits is by no means ideal. However, the long wait times do seem to have partly helped increase the longevity of the trust fund in the short term. Long-term solutions that increase the lifespan of the trust fund without the negative effects on claimants will have to come from lawmakers. Not only is the program guaranteed to pay full benefits for the next eleven years, but Social Security disability attorneys’ legal fees are steadily rising every month. Now is one of the best times to expand your Social Security disability practice.

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