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SSD waiting period increases as baby boomers age

In recent months, we have written several blog posts about the troubling wait time for Social Security Disability (SSD) applications and appeals to be considered by Social Security Administration (SSA) officials and administrative law judges. According to a recent statement by an SSA regional communications director, however, the problem may only get worse before it gets better.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, applicants must prove that they are suffering from a disability, illness or other condition that is so severe that it renders them unable to work or perform "substantial gainful activity." In addition, they must prove that the condition has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months.

But even people who meet those requirements often have their applications denied. This is an increasingly common occurrence in recent years, according to SSA data. In the last five years, the number of approved SSD applications has dropped from 35 percent in 2006 to 33 percent in 2011. At the same time, the number of total applications has increased dramatically, from 3.5 million applications in 2006 to 3.2 million in 2011.

SSA regional communications director Patti Patterson believes that the aging of the baby boomer generation and the struggling economy both play a part in the increase in applications. "Baby boomers reaching their disability-prone years and the economic downturn have contributed to the increase in applications," she said.

While the SSA has been working on reducing wait times, it has not had much success as applications have swelled. Now, initial claims take approximately 115 days to process, just five days fewer than they took in 2006, on average. Appeals often take more than a year.

Source: The St. Augustine Record, "Social Security disability harder to get as the Baby Boomer bubble swells number of applications," Jennifer Edwards, Nov. 13, 2011

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