This information from NOSSCR.org is discouraging for anyone hoping their Social Security disability claim might be processed quickly.
There were 1,820,282 Title II disabled worker claims received in field offices in 2021 according to SSA data. This is the smallest number since at least 2006. Of these, just over 1.21 million were sent to state agencies: others may not have yet been sent or were denied without a medical determination for reasons like lack of insured status.
SSI claims have also dropped; the most recent data released by SSA was for calendar year 2020, when compared to 2019 there was a 17% decrease in child SSI applications and a 13% decrease in applications for people aged 18-64.
Despite fewer claims going to DDSs, the state agencies have longer processing times and larger backlogs. The National Association of Disability Examiners (NADE) reported that the national average processing time for initial claims was 165 last year and 147 days for reconsiderations. In Fiscal Years 2015-2019, the average processing time for initial claims ranged from 110-120 days, so claimants are now waiting approximately 6-8 weeks longer on average for initial-level decisions. Similarly, the FY2015-19 average processing time for reconsiderations ranged from 101-113 days, so there has been an increase of approximately 5-7 weeks for decisions at the reconsideration level; additionally, claimants who live in “prototype” states now must go through the reconsideration process when they did not have to do so for many years in the past.
At the end of December 2021, there were 776,660 initial claims and 194,766 reconsiderations pending at state agencies, according to SSA data. This total of 971,426 pending disability claims is a 9.4% increase over December 2020 and 27.6% higher than the number of claims pending in December 2019, due to a combination of increased processing times and the end of the demonstration that exempted claims from “prototype” states from the reconsideration step of the disability benefits application process.