Couple facing foreclosure after benefit decision delay by Social Security Administration

ORLANDO, Fla. — Dennis and Maria Delgado have been married for 16 years. The last year was one of the worst.


In December of 2022, Dennis had a stroke and has never been the same.

Maria told us, “Working was just no longer on the table and that was a hard decision for someone who has worked his whole life and worked so hard and was very proud of this work.”

Doctors don’t know what caused the stroke, or the two before that one, but he continues to deteriorate so he filed for social security disability. Right now, he is living on just his short-term disability, barely getting by and there’s been no help from the government.

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It took 7 months for social security to look at his application and in September, he was denied.

She told us, “We are just struggling through. it was kind of paycheck to paycheck before that, but with this it’s just made a huge impact with everything.”

Right now, they have filed an appeal, but in the meantime, money is tight and they have gotten two notices for foreclosure on their home.

Attorney Sarah Jacobs says the delay in getting benefits is worse than ever.

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“So before the pandemic, I could tell a client, and you file an application, you will have an initial decision on your disability between 60 and 90 days on average, you know, give or take,” Jacobs said. “Right now we’re seeing cases in Florida take up to 26 months at the initial level to either receive an approval letter or a denial letter 26 months. Their cases are sitting there, Meanwhile, our clients are dying.”

The issue, there is not enough staff to process disability applications and, until claims are approved, many of Jacobs’s clients can’t get in to see a doctor and told Channel 9, “And they’re dying. I have had more calls this past year and a half of our clients passing away….” Adding, “So the resources really need to be refocused on back on to processing the disability applications to see who should be receiving this money and, you know, are entitled to it.”

According to U.S. Representative Drew Ferguson, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee it takes an average of 220 days for claims to get a decision and 100 days longer than 2019 and more than 150 days longer than the social security administration’s standard.

He said, “For the first time in history, more than 1 million people are waiting on the social security administration to process their initial disability claim. The real-world consequences for these individuals who are unable to work and wait for their disability decision is devastating.”

The Social Security Administration responded saying in part, “Staffing continues to play a significant role in the time it takes DDSs to make medical determinations.

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While we were able to make progress in fiscal year (FY) 2023 by hiring about 2,500 DDS employees, FY 2024 staffing has fallen below FY 2023 due to implementing a hiring freeze during the extended continuing resolution (CR).

As a result, the average wait time for a disability decision increased from 218 to 228 days as of the beginning of February.

Additionally, the number of cases that cannot be assigned to disability examiners in a state DDS due to insufficient staffing is at a historic high and continues to increase on a weekly basis-some cases are sitting unassigned for months.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 established new discretionary spending limits for FYs 2024 and 2025.

Our efforts to improve customer service will stall if we do not receive sufficient funding to maintain level staffing with the end of FY 2023.

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Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.