Some Experts Seeing Faster Access to Social Security Disability Benefits in Michigan

Excruciatingly long wait times have become an unfortunate feature of Social Security Disability ("SSD") claims in Michigan. With a huge backlog of cases, the Social Security Administration ("SSA") is struggling to catch up with a growing demand for benefits. But, even though budget reductions may contribute to the problem in the future, some SSD observers are finally noticing shorter SSD wait times.

Well Known Backlogs

Michigan has become infamous among states for the lengthy wait times imposed on SSD applicants. In the most extreme cases, applicants have had to wait five years for their first SSD check to arrive.

So what is behind these painful delays? For one thing, there is a mandatory waiting time built into SSD claims in any state. Since SSD benefits are meant for people with long-term disabilities, a waiting period of a few months helps show that a disabled worker's condition is not improving and that they are unable to adjust to other work. In Michigan, the primary culprit for longer delays is simply overworked SSA employees. A single Michigan SSD caseworker can be responsible for examining the files of anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 applicants at any given time.

Alleviation Measures

Over the last few years, the SSA has taken steps to help reduce wait times, such as opening new hearing offices and allowing appeals to go forward in other states via videoconferencing technology. In addition, SSA employees in Michigan have been working extended hours to help tackle the state's backlog of cases.

There is some indication that these efforts are paying off: applicant advocates have seen a decrease in delays, especially in the Livonia SSA office in eastern Michigan, where wait times and processing times are now the lowest in the state.

But, no one is sure how long the relief will last. Republican budget proposals working through the U.S. legislature are proposing slashing up to 9 percent of the SSA's budget, a cut that many SSA employees feel could be disastrous for the effort to overcome SSD claim backlogs.

For now, at least some disabled workers are experiencing an improvement in the expediency of their claims, which means better access to the SSD benefits they have earned.