According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, shrinking staff levels, a dramatically increasing workload and more complicated disabling impairments will lead to an exploding backlog of claims for social security retirement and disability claims. Staffing in Social Security field offices dropped 4.4 percent from 2005 to 2008. The agency also estimates that 44 percent of its staff will retire by 2016.

With the influx in “baby boomer” retirees and people signing up for retirement and disability benefits, more than 3 million customers who went to a Social Security field office waited over an hour to be served in 2008, including approximately 405,000 people who waited more than 2 hours for service. And yet, the SSA workload is expected to increase tremendously. The agency projects that filings will increase its work by approximately 1 million annual claims by 2017.

In addition, disability determinations are growing more complicated and time-consuming. Since the early 1990s, the types of afflictions considered disabling increased, and the complexity of disabling conditions increased.

The factors described above illustrate the continuing challenge for claimants to receive their benefits in a timely manner. Disability applications now number 2.6 million, according to the Social Security Administration. SSA reports the time for a decision at the initial application level is 106 days. At the hearing level, where claimants seek review by an administrative law judge, the processing time is 514 days and now more than 765,000 people are waiting. Although SSA has made strides in addressing the backlog, delays continue for hundreds of thousands of claimants.

A chart of showing the extent of the backlog of SSA claims pending nationwide and in our area follows:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Facts

SSDI Applicants Backlog Nationwide in 2008:

Average Wait Time in 2008:

Level 1: Initial Claims

519,000 106 Days

Level 2: Reconsiderations


Level 3: Hearings

765,000 514 Days

Level 4: Appeals Council

53,852 238 Days

Total Pending Backlog:


Average SSA wait time
across all levels:

  942 days

Backlog in New Jersey


Backlog in New York


Average Monthly SSDI
Benefit (2008):


Thanks for the information on the SSA disability backlog to