Why is My Disability Case Taking So Long?

Oct 30, 2015 | Sara Khaki

The Major Backlog with Social Security Disability

One question we get from our clients who are the hearing level is “why do I have to wait 12-18 months just for my hearing to be scheduled?” This is a truly legitimate and reasonable question. It seems ludicrous to have to wait so long for a hearing to be scheduled, and our response doesn’t make things any better – there is a backlog. We know it sounds like an empty and made up response.  We know it’s hard to believe there’s nothing we can do as your attorney to speed up the process, but the fact of the matter is there are approximately one million claims in the queue and the national average time to process these claims is close to 450 days.

One million!  How does this happen?   A recent Washington Post article addressed this question and found there are four main reasons that there is such an enormous backlog: the requests for hearings are historically high, the administrative hearing process is not efficient, there are fewer judges overall to hear these cases, and there are less writers on staff who can make decisions at earlier levels. So the question is: what is the Social Security Administration doing to fix these problems and decrease the backlog?

In July of this year, two officials in charge of the appeals office were replaced with new leadership.  The hope is this new leadership will begin to make the change that has supposedly been in the works since 2007.  The new head of the office, Terrie Gruber, says she and her team are putting the final touches on their new plan.  She stated that their goal is to hire more judges over the next two years and decrease the wait to 235 days by 2020.

To do this, a new electronic data system will help determine which appeals can be screened by attorneys and federal claims examiners who can make decisions themselves rather than sending them to a hearing.  More attorneys will be hired, training support staff to better organize data and medical records for the judges, and using more video teleconference hearings at local SSA offices that don’t have judges should all work towards decreasing the backlog and moving the wait time to a more reasonable period of time.

While this news doesn’t help current claims, the hope is that big changes will be occurring over the next few years.

To see the full Washington Post article on this topic, click here.


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