Here's a trivia question for your Friday afternoon: What federal government agency has a backlog that is the largest in the nation? If you guessed the Veteran's Administration, you would be wrong; even though you would be justified in guessing it. After all, there are more than 500,000 claims in flux, and waiting times for appointments are more than three months long. If you think it's the U.S. Patent Office, you would be wrong again, even though the estimated 606,000 patents pending approval is shockingly high.
If you're still stumped, try the Social Security Administration (SSA). With a caseload nearly double the VA's, the 990,399 unresolved cases is more than the populations of Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming...not combined, of course. With so many applications (2.6 million in 2013) it is no wonder that some applications take so long to be processed, and that so many are initially denied (about 67 percent).
Nevertheless, it is the number of unresolved cases that raises concerns. Even more troubling, it does not appear to be going away (or getting better) anytime soon. This is because Social Security appeals judges are hopelessly behind, and it does not appear that they will be getting help. In fact, they fell behind during the Ford Administration, and things have only gotten worse over time.
According to a recent WashingtonPost.com article, the average wait time for a SSA case is 422 days. That's pretty short compared to the VA (957 days) or the patent office (800 days). But when money is short and options are limited, what can you do?
Hiring an attorney could be a good option. An experienced lawyer can help synthesize information in a way that SSA judges find persuasive, which could resolve questions that have resulted in prior denials.