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Paul Nelson ReportingAttorneys are calling it a crisis in the Social Security administration. Some legal analysts say Social Security offices are at their lowest staffing levels since the '70s. This is having a dramatic ripple effect on people filing disability claims.
Christina Winn went to the Social Security office in Salt Lake City to help her mom apply for disability. "She has diabetes, and she's suffered three major heart attacks," Winn says.
Coming out of the office, she's even more frustrated than she was going in. She feels like she's already getting the run-around. Christina told KSL, "They said that they would be able to do the application today, but they want us to do, we have to call and even [do an] application over the phone. And then you have these stupid starter kits you have to do. It's just ridiculous."
She says she's just started in the application process, and the delay is already unbearable. "They say that they're here to help, but they're really not helping. It's just making it more frustrating for all of us," she said.
Christina has no assurances her claim will be accepted or not. Many claims are rejected right away. Even if her claim is rejected, and she appeals, the Social Security Administration is facing 745,000 appeals already, a record number. USA Today says the average wait time for a hearing is 17 months. Some Social Security attorneys say cases are being filed quicker than the courts can handle.
Attorney David C. Brown has his office in Utah, but he travels all over the country doing Social Security cases. He says the delay has become too much for some of his clients to bear. "I've had some clients that have died waiting for their hearing. I've had one client on appeal commit suicide," he said.
Brown says the problem comes from a serious staffing issue in the administration. He says there are just not enough judges to handle the caseload. He says some cities are worse than others. For example, in Seattle, Brown says it could take over two years to get a hearing. Luckily, the problem isn't so bad in Utah. "My experience there, it's not even a year. It's six months to a year," he said.
Brown says you can speed up your case if you ask the court to expedite it, or you could ask for the judge to make a decision without a hearing on the appeal.