Why does it take so long to get a Disability Hearing?Posted October 27, 2016 by Premier Disability Services, LLC® It is no secret that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a significant backlog of cases right now, and it seems that it is taking the Agency an absurd amount of time to schedule a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). It is estimated that people nationwide are waiting an average of 525 days at the hearing level before appearing before a judge. ALJs oversee the hearing process through the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Below are four reasons that it is taking so long to be scheduled for a hearing:
1. ODAR is understaffed. ODAR currently does not have enough workers to handle all their cases. In fact, ODAR is currently operating at a 31% staff deficiency per volume of cases compared to their staffing situation from a decade ago.
2. SSA has a hiring freeze. In spite of the growing backlog, SSA has a hiring freeze that is further impacting wait times. SSA has consistently had to deal with budget cuts that have prevented the Agency from staffing their offices to handle the volume of cases assigned.
3. ODAR has had to change the way that they write decisions. It has become more time-consuming to write a hearing decision. The District Courts have encouraged SSA to add more detail to their hearing decisions to make them tougher to appeal. Thus, the ALJs have to provide more instructions to their writers and inject more details in the decision letters to make them ironclad should an appeal be filed.
4. Duplicate records and last-minute submissions create problems for ODAR. When attorneys or claimants submit the same materials over and over or bombard the ALJ with sizable submissions a few days before the hearing, it creates havoc for the ALJs and their staff. Thus, they have asked all attorneys and claimants to avoid submitting duplicates and have prohibited attorneys from submitting evidence for the final five business days before the hearing.
Are you or a family member applying for benefits? Give us a call. We will answer any questions that you have and will offer a free case evaluation to determine how we can help you through the process. Also you can take look at your individual state hearing information and statistics here.
By: Thomas A. Klint of Premier Disability Services, LLC®