Did you know that over 1 million people are currently waiting for Social Security disability services?

USAFacts, a nonpartisan civic data organization, released new data that revealed that for the first time since the data set began in 2008, over 1 million new applications in the Social Security Administration are pending review.

In addition, the average processing time has risen to another record of 712 months, which is up from just over four months in February 2020.

These are the rankings of each state’s backlog percentage change from 2019 through 2022:

  1. Florida = 156%.
  2. South Carolina = 147%.
  3. Texas = 142%.
  4. North Dakota = 132%.
  5. Wisconsin = 130%.
  6. Kansas = 128%.
  7. Arizona = 120%.
  8. New Hampshire = 114%.
  9. Mississippi = 111%.
  10. Georgia = 98%.
  11. Louisiana = 96%.
  12. Illinois = 77%.
  13. Alabama = 70%.
  14. New Mexico = 68%.
  15. Massachusetts = 64%.
  16. Utah = 63%.
  17. Virginia = 56%.
  18. Arkansas = 50%.
  19. West Virginia = 44%.
  20. Maine = 44%.
  21. Delaware = 44%.
  22. Hawaii = 42%.
  23. Maryland = 38%.
  24. Nebraska = 38%.
  25. Wyoming = 36%.
  26. New York = 33%.
  27. Colorado = 31%.
  28. Oregon = 28%.
  29. Montana = 27%.
  30. California = 27%.
  31. Kentucky = 25%.
  32. Tennessee = 25%.
  33. Indiana = 22%.
  34. Michigan = 21%.
  35. Idaho = 19%.
  36. Ohio = 15%.
  37. Pennsylvania = 13%.
  38. North Carolina = 11%.
  39. New Jersey = 11%.
  40. Iowa = 7%.
  41. Connecticut = 7%.
  42. Minnesota = 5%.
  43. Washington, D.C. = 2%.
  44. Missouri = <1%.
  45. Nevada = <-1%.
  46. South Dakota = -4%.
  47. Rhode Island = -11%.
  48. Oklahoma = -11%.
  49. Washington = -11%.
  50. Vermont = -21%.
  51. Alaska = -51%.
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Why are the benefits so backlogged?

The SSA’s Office of Audit ran an internal investigation after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and found that there were 15.9% fewer new applicants than the year before.

So while there hasn’t been an increase in the number of new applicants, the total backlog is due to a lack of employees at the state level and funding.

“The Social Security Administration noted that lack of employees at the state level and funding have been the two largest contributing factors to the backlog,” Amber Thomas, a data visualization engineer at USAFacts, told the Deseret News.

Thomas further said, “According to a letter from the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General released in November 2010, the backlog at that time was caused by similar factors as today’s backlog.”

CNN reported that “pandemic issues and budget cuts at the Social Security Administration” have kept many cases backlogged as the office is experiencing the lowest staffing levels seen in 25 years.

Thomas said, “They say workers are just having trouble keeping up with the demand for new and appealing applications. All applications and the first round of appeals are handled at state-level DDS offices, so while there are some states that have not seen a change or minimal movement, some like Utah have seen larger backlog increases due to a combination of those circumstances.”

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What does this mean?

Due to this backlog, an estimated 8,000 applicants file for bankruptcy and 10,000 die each year awaiting a decision, according to USAFacts.

There is reportedly no monetary assistance for applicants, appeals could force applicants to wait well over three years on average for a decision, and because applicants are handled at the state level, some states and their citizens are hurting more than others.

When asked how Americans can help, Thomas said that it is important to help yourself and those around you know the facts and spread the information so that state representatives can change the direction this issue is going in.

“It can start by sharing our report with family and friends who want to learn more about the topic but continue with seeking out more information to educate and inform you and your communities. People interested in helping should contact their lawmaking representatives at local, state and national levels to have the issue addressed. Increased awareness of the issue like this piece can go a long way to helping garner more attention,” Thomas said.