The SSA has several programs set up for persons with different needs, these include Old-Age, Survivors and Disability insurance benefits, or more formally Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance benefits (RSDI or OASDI). I will cover all of these areas here.
Old-Age insurance benefits are exactly what they sound like – a retirement program that provides for a monthly monetary stipend for individuals who meet qualifications based on age and a particular quarter system, an example of which I briefly touched on in my April 4, 2016 blog post, among other items. Currently, there are about 41 million people drawing these benefits.
Survivors insurance benefits are for the persons who have survived the death of a spouse or parent and clear the benchmarks required, which I covered in my December 23, 2015 and January 12, 2016 blog posts respectively. At present, there are some six million recipients.
Finally, there is Disability Insurance Benefits insurance, which I have touched on several times in my blog posts, which is provided to individuals who are disabled. There are about 10 million beneficiaries currently drawing social security disability.
The SSA has broken down these and other associated figures on its website for those who are interested.
Budget Cuts and Wait Times
Now, actually getting at those benefits is more difficult than ever due to budget cuts emanating from the 2011 Budget Control Act. For example, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), an individual just seeking to discuss these and other subjects over the telephone with the SSA can expect to wait at least 15 minutes on hold, if you don’t get a busy signal right off the bat.
Moreover, the SSA has cut hours at some district offices, closed 64 others along with an additional 533 mobile offices over the last six years.
For example, the Huntsville and Decatur district offices close at noon on Wednesdays and, if you need some information and try the nationwide 1-800-772-1213 telephone number, good luck. It has been my personal experience that the person who picks up the phone on the other end will have no clue what is going on with your case or will give you misleading or flat out incorrect information, if any information at all.
Another good example is the time it is taking some of the local Offices of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) to set hearings. At present the Florence, AL ODAR is about 14 months, the Franklin, TN about 16.5 months and Birmingham, AL is about 17 months. Alabama overall is about 15.5 months, while the national average is about 15.9 months.
Keep in mind this is just the amount of time it takes to get a hearing date, and doesn’t include the two to four months it takes to get an initial decision AFTER the hearing. Don’t get me started on the current approval rates.
The CBPP article covers these and several other depressing items relating to SSA budget cuts and lack of staffing and the impact they have had on the system as a whole.
If you or your child have been denied SSA disability benefits or suffer from a severe impairment that is expected to last more than twelve months and that prevents you from doing any of your past or other work or is causing developmental delay in your child, please contact our office nearest to you to set up a free consultation appointment to discuss your situation.