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Sequestration: What it is, and how it might affect you

A recent letter to representatives of Social Security Disability clients from the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Carolyn Colvin, spelled out the chilling effects of the resent sequestration.

The sequestration, or rather--budget cuts to particular categories of federal spending, began on March 1, 2013. While the sequester will not affect Social Security benefits, it will play a large role in the Social Security Disability process.

As a result of the sequestration, Colvin provided a staggering report  that revealed how the budget cuts would affect clients. Although Social Security benefits (both retirement and disability benefits) are exempt from the sequester, the Administration is not. The effects of the sequester, according to Colvin, will affect those who visit or call Social Security Administration offices. She estimated that visitors will wait significantly longer in person, and will wait almost 10 minutes for someone to answer the phone when calling their 800-number.

Additionally, Colvin estimated that "pending levels of initial disability claims will rise by over 140,000, and, on average, applicants will have to wait about two weeks longer for a decision on an initial disability claim and nearly a month longer for a disability hearing decision."

Previously, the timeline for an individual in the midst of a routine Social Security Disability claim was quite unsettling. According to the Social Security Administration's own figures, using the highest averaged amount of time it takes per stage in the disability process, some routine claims could take over 3 years before a final decision was rendered (read more about the case stages and their time frames here). 

So, how will this affect you? Simply put, the disability process may take even longer, and unfortunately, not much can be done to speed it up. We will continue to keep our clients updated and informed on the effects of the sequestration.


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