In our last blog, we talked about the weak economy and unemployment rate and its effect on the rising number Social Security Disability claims. So, it may not come as much of a surprise to learn that there are numerous other factors at play in the lengthy process many individuals are a part of right now. Age, for instance, is playing a larger role than it has in the past. More specifically, the Baby Boomers are hitting the system...and they're making an impact.
According to Patti Patterson, Social Security Administration regional communications director, "Baby boomers reaching their disability-prone years [and the economic downturn] have contributed to the increase in applications." Despite strict requirements regarding disability requirements, the number of applicants has continued to rise in recent years. In fact, according to administration statistics, the number of applicants has risen nearly 30 percent in five years.
The figures, provided by the Social Security Administration, speak for themselves. In Fiscal Year 2006, over 2,500,000 individuals applied for Social Security Disability benefits, with just over 35 percent of applicants being awarded at the initial application level. Just five years later, in Fiscal Year 2011, the number of applicants had risen to just over 3,200,000. The rise in applicants did not coincide with a rise in the number of individuals whose applications were approved at the initial level, as that number dropped nearly 2 percent.
Despite the substantial growth, the average wait time for initial claims is slightly less, albeit by only 5 days, than it was 5 years ago. The Social Security Administration continues to revisit their plan to eliminate their hearing backlog, which provides hope for the individuals who find themselves still in the middle of the disability process. In the meantime, we continue to work hard for our clients to ensure that their cases are as strong as possible at every given stage.