Recent efforts in Congress to derail Social Security Disability (“SSD”) have been well documented. Carolyn Colvin, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, said that if Congress does not shore up the SSD Insurance Trust Fund, then it would be a “death sentence” for beneficiaries. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Democrats attribute the problem to an increasing and aging population, and Republicans attribute the problem to non-disabled workers who became unemployed during the economic downturn.
As a result of Congressional pressure on the SSA, the approval rate for disability claims cases has dropped the last five years in a row, from 63% to 45%. Various measures have been taken to reduce approvals, and budgetary issues are resulting in a marked increase in hearing waiting times. Some people believe the delays are designed to hurt the cash flow of attorneys who represent the SSD claimants. Earlier this month, Law 360 noted that Binder & Binder is seeking a $6 million loan to avoid liquidation because the slowdown in social security disability and veterans’ benefits has sapped its cash flow.
Unfortunately, claims of rampant applicant fraud remains unfounded, and the overwhelming vast majority of applicants cannot work on a full time basis. Just as justice delayed is justice denied; delaying SSD benefits is unjust. I represent a 64 year old bus driver whose SSD benefits were approved yesterday after 28 months. The claimant had several physicians who all concluded the claimant was disabled, and their opinions were supported by tests and clinical records. Even the SSA medical expert at the hearing agreed with the treating physicians. It would not have taken 28 months to decide this case five years ago.