In addition to pensions, Social Security also provides disability benefits to people of all ages who are physically or mentally unable to work. But the process required to get these benefits often turns into a bureaucratic nightmare, with applicants who tend to be older and poorer than most Americans sometimes wait years to start receiving money.
This is confirmed by statistics from the Federal Audit Office (GAO), cited in its new report: from 2008 to 2019, almost 110 thousand people died while awaiting a decision on their appeal after they were initially denied disability benefits. Between 2014 and 2019, about 50,000 people filed for bankruptcy while awaiting resolution of their cases. Typically, three-quarters of initial applications for disability benefits are rejected and applicants have to file appeals. The average waiting time for a decision in 2015 was 839 days, but by last year it dropped to 506 days. The GAO is now concerned that the economic chaos caused by the pandemic will again stall the appeal process.