INCREASED WAIT TIMES FOR SOCIAL SECURITY HEARINGS
Over the past couple of years, there has been a troubling trend in Social Security Disability claims. The wait time for a disability hearing has increased across the country. The average processing time for a disability claim at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review is over 500 days.
The Social Security Administration is underfunded and there are not enough judges to hear cases fast enough. This has resulted in a huge backlog of disability cases awaiting decisions. At some hearings offices, claimants are waiting more than two years for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge! That’s in addition to the six to twelve months they wait for a decision at the initial and reconsideration levels.
Unfortunately, attorneys and other disability advocates have very limited tools to expedite the hearing process. Only in extremely narrow circumstances (e.g., terminal illness) will Social Security allow an individual’s case to jump ahead in line for an earlier hearing date. In most cases, our clients must wait for Social Security to schedule the case for a hearing despite the hardship these delays inflict.
According to a report by the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives in October 2016, almost 8000 disability claimants died while waiting for a hearing in fiscal year 2016. Although their family members may have been able to continue the case and eventually prevail, thousands of disabled Americans never received the benefits they deserved.
Eric Shore recently wrote a letter to President Trump and met with a Chief Administrative Law Judge to discuss ways to help resolve cases more efficiently. However, until the federal hiring freeze imposed on the government is lifted and Congress takes action, Social Security’s backlog of cases could continue to grow.
Contact your congressional representatives to let them know how important this issue is to you, their constituent. You can find your representative’s contact information at http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep.
– G. Evan Jones, Esq.
Social Security Disability