How Long Will My Disability Case Be at the Social Security Hearing Office Before It gets Scheduled?

Social Security Disability and SSI hearings typically take a year or more to be scheduled, due to current backlogs within the Social Security system. In areas in which the population is greater, or where whole industries are disappearing (such as Detroit), the wait for a disability hearing could take over two years. The more disability cases filed in your state each year, the longer it takes for Social Security to act on your case.

Currently there are over 2 million disability applications filed with Social Security for SSD or SSI benefits. This number is expected to increase next year, and the pattern shows no sign of changing anytime soon. The wait for the Social Security office to schedule hearings will probably increase over time as well, barring some extensive state and federal government funding to hire more individuals to process disability applications.

More than a decade ago this was not the case, at least for most individuals. Applicants who filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge in 1999 and 2000 usually waited about 3 to 5 for the hearing office to schedule their case. Today, in this economy, a prompt response on a hearing request is no longer a reality.

Because it takes so long for disability hearings to be scheduled, applicants should do everything they can to help the process run smoothly. This includes filing reconsideration appeals and hearing requests on time, within 60 days of the date the claim was rejected (this date is stamped in the top right corner of the decision).

Do not make the mistake of filing a new claim rather than filing an appeal. Unless there is some compelling new information to add to the medical record, it is unlikely there will be a different decision on an application. Also, be sure to comply with requests for additional information and to attend any scheduled appointments, particularly those for consultative medical exams scheduled by a disability examiner.

Finally, and perhaps this should go without saying: Show up for your hearing. A surprising number of people wait years to be scheduled for a hearing, only to fail to show up. And this is really a shame, because, though the wait for a hearing is long, statistics show that administrative law judges tend to side with claimants; about 60 percent of disability denials are overturned by disability judges.

Additional information:

Can a disability attorney speed up my disability hearing? By What Methods?

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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