How long will it take before a judge in Florida will see my disability case?

"I was told by my attorney's office today it will probably take at least 2 years before a judge even sees my case...and I will probably get turned down twice prior to that. I have MS and my condition has worsened to the point of no longer being able to work, but in two years time I will lose my home and my car if I have no income. I am currently on Short term disability through work which will soon go into my long term disability benefits. Should I get a 2nd opinion from another attorney?"

I hate to say it, but the social security attorney may be dead-on. It used to be that it would take 2 years to get a hearing date before an administrative law judge just after the disability hearing request was submitted. Hearing wait times had improved in recent times due to a concerted effort by SSA to reduce backlogs, at the very least to reduce the growth of the backlogs. Then, unfortunately, the backlogs grew again, and for the very same reason: not enough judges.

Even so, if you are just beginning the process in Florida, and have yet to go through the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels, it may well be true that you endure two years in the process. That is, unless you are approved for Social Security Disability or approved for SSI at the disability application level (approximately 30 percent of claims get awarded at that level) or you are approved at the first appeal level, the reconsideration appeal level (about 12-14 percent of these appeals are awarded).

The general rule of thumb is that if you are denied on a initial disability application, you will probably have to pursue the case to the hearing level since the first appeal, the recon, is usually denied as well. It may not hurt to talk to a second attorney, particularly if you can find one that is more "proactive" about trying to get your case won at the reconsideration level, or one who will be willing to try to get your hearing expedited if a hearing request becomes necessary.

Other times, a disability attorney may find it suitable to request an on-the-record decision after the hearing request has been made--- if the case is strong enough. This can eliminate the need for a hearing.

If you do have to go a hearing, however, an attorney can submit a brief in the hopes of receiving a bench decision which can eliminate much of the wait for a written decision. These might be some of the things you would discuss with the second, or even the first attorney.

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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