SSD Struggles: When Denial Comes After a Long Wait

No one likes waiting! If you’re ever waited on a call back from a doctor, stood in line for a post-work sandwich from the Publix deli, or taken a kid to an amusement park, you know that long waits can quickly lead to impatience, irritability, and anger. Thankfully, though, the payoff often comes much faster than you think, and the wait feels well worth it. But can you imagine waiting and waiting, only to  not to receive the thing you were waiting for? For the thousands of people waiting on Social Security Disability decisions, this is a devastating reality.

The High Possibility of Denial

Nationwide, about 65% of all Social Security Disability (SSD) applicants are denied during their initial application. If an applicant decides to ask for a reconsideration of their application, the chance of a denial swells to 85%.

When an applicant is denied, it does not necessarily mean that they are not disabled. For example, someone who is in need of SSD might be rejected because:

  • They are still able to do some work, even though it is not the work they were doing before
  • Their work experience and skills allow for the potential for them to find a new job
  • A side job, even if it is part-time, brings in enough money to disqualify them from qualifying for SSD
  • They do not provide enough evidence to thoroughly and accurately prove their claim

As these statistics show, denial is a very common part of the SSD process. The fact that the denial often comes after a long wait just adds insult to injury.

A Long Wait

According to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) website, the average wait time to hear back on an application is around 17 months. The wait time for Tampa is particularly abysmal, with up to 20 months passing before applicants hear back. For comparison:

  • New Orleans, Louisiana: 15 months
  • Los Angeles, California: 19 months
  • Montgomery, Alabama: 15.5 months

Florida, in general, fares badly on wait times. Orlando and Fort Lauderdale both have wait times of 19 months, while Jacksonville and Miami have a wait time of 21 months. St. Petersburg’s wait time is right around the average at 17.5 months, while Tallahassee, with a wait time of 14.5 months, is lower than average.

Why the Wait?

It might seem easy to blame the slowness on lazy and inefficient people at the Social Security Administration. But in actuality, the slow process should be blamed on the massive numbers of applications that come in. In October of 2017, there were 167,000 applications for SSD filed in the United States. It takes time to evaluate each claim, particularly if there is incomplete information that SSA needs to verify. As more and more applicants flow in, a backlog of claims is created, leading to a long wait. In Florida, there is a backlog of 12,304 cases, making it the second worst state in the country for SSD claims.

The waiting time between filing an application and receiving a response is often filled with pain, tension, and financial woes. While waiting, most applicants cannot work. This leads to a significant loss of wages, which can have a long-term effect. By the time someone gets a response, regardless of SSA’s decision, they might already be in a tough financial situation, as well as suffering from their illness or injury.

Speeding It Up

While there isn’t much that the applicant can do to speed up the process, they can make sure that their application is thoroughly and accurately filled out with all the necessary information. This ensures that the SSA, when they get to the application, will not have to spend as much time calling doctors and searching for medical records, and might help to move the application along.

Unfortunately, the SSD process might always be slow, complicated, and sometimes, even heartbreaking, as the backlog continues to grow and applications continue to get denied. But when someone is truly suffering from a deliberating injury or illness, relief is often worth the wait, no matter how long it takes.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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