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Thousands die waiting for Social Security decisions

Jan. 19, 2018

You may have heard that the process of getting Social Security disability payments can be long. You may have heard that it's complex.

To really understand how long it can take, you should know that thousands of people pass away every year before a ruling has even been made. Not only do they not get the payments they requested, but they're just waiting to find out if they've been approved when they pass away.

In 2016, for example, a total of approximately 7,400 people died before resolutions were made. This was noted by the Social Security system's own inspector general.

That's not an uncommon figure. At any given time, the amount of people who are waiting to have a hearing exceeds 1 million. The average time they spend waiting before that hearing is granted -- not a resolution or a decision; just a hearing -- is right around two years.

It varies across the country. For instance, the average for people in Fort Worth, Texas, is 483 days. However, that's one of the shortest wait times in the nation. Those in Kentucky could wind up waiting far longer. When the "best" time is 483 days, it's easy to see how most people have to wait for two years.

As a result, experts advise starting the claims process as soon as possible, rather than waiting until you run into dire straights -- such as becoming homeless. Don't assume that this is a quick fix, financially speaking. Make sure you know exactly what legal steps you'll need to take.

Source: Star-Telegram, "Steps to take if you’re mired in the Social Security disability process," Jeff Caplan, accessed Jan. 19, 2018