Death wins Social Security Disability appeals

by | Sep 21, 2020 | social security disability

Over one percent of the nine million Americans who appealed the denial of disability benefits through the Social Security Administration died before a decision was reached on their appeal between 2008 and 2019. Applicants should prepare to overcome this challenging process because of the importance of Social Security Disability benefits.


Through all its programs, SSA serves 61 million Americans, one fifth of the nation’s population, each month. These appeal backlogs involved the Supplemental Security Income and the Disability Income programs.

SSI is a means-tested program that provides monthly payments to children or adults who are aged, blind or have other disabilities and their income or assets do not exceed a certain level. DI gives monthly benefits to working-age adults, their dependents or survivors who cannot work because of a long-term disability.

SSA manages $185 billion that goes through these two programs annually. Over 12 million adults with disabilities and eligible dependents received benefits from SSI and DI as of 2019. Hundreds of thousands of disability benefits applicants tend to have low earnings or serious medical benefits, according to auditors.


The backlog was cited in an audit by the General Accounting Office issued last month. In addition to the 110,000 applicants who died while awaiting their appeal, another 48,000 Americans filed for bankruptcy while waiting for a benefits decision from SSA between fiscal 2014 and 2019.

Auditors cited wait times that rose to an average of more than two years at times over the last decade. Median wait times climbed to 839 days for claims filed in fiscal 2015 after an increase of disability claims from the Great Recession.

Auditors determined that benefit resolution delays were mostly attributed to waiting for administrative law judge hearings. Ten percent of applicants who filed for disability benefits in 2015 were still waiting for the resolution of their appeal through 2018.

Other delays

The SSA was criticized for delays in other programs. The SSA auditor general reported in July that four million Americans waited over one hour in lines at Social Security field offices. Over 20 million of those individuals left a Social Security office over the last decade without being served, according to that audit. There are similar problems with the SSA’s telephone services, according to another report.

These programs may be essential for meeting your needs. An attorney can help you meet requirements and assure that rights to disability benefits are protected.