Disability backlog tops 1 million; thousands die on waitlist

Denied Social Security Disability application form

WASHINGTON — More than 1 million Americans are waiting for a hearing to see whether they qualify for disability benefits from Social Security. Their average wait will be nearly two years, longer than some of them will live.

All of them have been denied benefits at least once — in fact, most applications are initially rejected.

But in Social Security’s disability program, the outcome of a case often depends on who decides it.

Most of those who complete the appeals process eventually win benefits.

They won’t get rich: The average benefit is $1,037 a month, too small to lift a family of two out of poverty.

For some, the benefits come too late.

Last year, Social Security’s inspector general found there were 7,400 people on waitlists who were actually dead.