People who are turned down for a disability allowance and are appealing the decision are waiting 29 weeks for a result and 38 weeks if there is an oral hearing, according to new figures.
Disability allowance is paid to workers who have an injury, disease or physical or mental disability that has continued or may be expected to continue for at least one year.
According to the Department of Social Protection, there has been a rapid and sustained increase in the number of appeals received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2009, which has placed it under extraordinary pressure.
The average number of appeals received was 15,000 a year, but in 2012 this rose to 35,484. In order to manage this increasing workload, significant resources and efforts have been put into reducing backlogs and improving appeals-processing times, including the assignment of 15 additional appeals officers.
It said that in addition, a major programme of process redesign and modernisation is under way in the department in relation to many of its scheme areas, aimed at reducing backlogs and reducing the time taken by the department to respond to requests from the appeals office.
"These measures have led to improvements in processing times and a significant increase in the number of appeals finalised from 17,787 in 2009 to 32,558 in 2012.
"The chief appeals officer expects to finalise 6,000 more cases in 2013 than in 2012. Progress is also being made in reducing appeals on hand from 20,414 in January 2013 to 16,087 in November 2013.
"In 2010, the average processing time for a disability allowance oral hearing was 51.1 weeks while a decision requiring a summary decision took an average of 30.8 weeks. This had improved to 40.6 and 34.2 weeks respectively in 2012 and has further improved (up to October 2013) to 38.3 and 29.7 weeks respectively."