Joe Stewart applied for benefits in May 2015. He is now trapped in a backlog of 1.1 million claimants with no end in sight.
“A death sentence” is how Stewart, who has no health insurance, has come to think of another Social Security denial.
For other applicants, the wait itself may be enough to accomplish that. In the past two years, 18,701 people have died while waiting for a judge’s decision, increasing 15 percent from 8,699 deaths in fiscal 2016 to 10,002 deaths in fiscal 2017, according to preliminary federal data obtained by The Washington Post.
The rising death toll coincides with a surge in the length of time people must wait for a disposition, which swelled from a national average of 353 days in 2012 to a record high of 596 this past summer.