Disability Determination Services (DDS), the Virginia State Agency funded by the Federal Government to process Social Security disability claims and appeals, is extremely backlogged. Sequestration followed by additional budget cuts causing hiring freezes is largely to blame.

In the past, when a disability claim was filed in the claimant’s local SSA District office, then sent to the Norfolk DDS for determination, it would take an average of 4-6 months for the application to be turned around and a notice issued. If the claim was denied, it would take another 4-6 months for the Reconsideration to be completed. However, it is now taking 9-11 months for these claims to be processed at each level. This is adding as much as an additional year to the appeal process in denied claims

We are informed that the SSA district offices in southeast Virginia are now taking 2-4 months just to input new application data into the system before the files are even sent to the DDS for determination. This problem is further adding to the backlogs. District SSA offices may be getting ready to hire new employees that will hopefully help with this part of the problem, but doing so still does not address the staffing shortage at the Norfolk DDS.

Benefit applicants are now facing 18-24 months of waiting to hear about their disability applications and appeals. Then there will be another 10-12 months (or more) of waiting for a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on appeal.

Virginians deserve better than this. Many are losing their homes, their savings, their cars, their families and even their lives due to these delays. Most do not have health insurance and will not be eligible for Medicare and/or Medicaid until they win their claim for Social Security disability benefits.

It is increasingly urgent that these agencies be given the resources to do a better job.

We urge you to contact your senators and congressman to demand full funding for this vital government work.