December 30, 2009

Social Security Disability Hearing Backlog

backlog.JPGIndiana Social Security disability claimants often experience frustration when attempting to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Claimants may feel aggitated by the repetitive paperwork that they are required to complete in order to file a claim, the lack of communication with the Social Security Administration (SSA), and finally, the painstaking waiting period.

Because most disability claimants wait to file their claim until they are desperate for money, the waiting period to get a hearing may seem incredibly long.   The fact is that the waiting period to get a hearing is long!   Many Indiana residents can wait years before getting a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) after filing their claim.

The Social Security Adminstration may claim the backlog is caused by lack of funds, lack of workers, increasing caseload, and difficult-to-prove disabilities such as depression and anxiety. Recent records indicated the number of disability recipients has more than doubled since 1990.

As of October 2009, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) reports that hearing level processing times and the number of pending cases show improvement in the 2010 fiscal year.  The pending number of cases dropped for the past ten months having the lowest ODAR pending number since February 2008.  Currently, the average processing time is 441 days which is the lowest processing time since April 2005. The SSA’s goal is to reach a processing time of 270 days.  Indianapolis processing time averages 622 days ranking at 139 out of 143 hearings offices. 

What is making the improvement in the processing time and pending cases?  The SSA has hired 8,600 new employees in the 2009 fiscal year.  This included 147 new ALJ’s and more than 1,000 ODAR support staff.  This increase in workforce allows faster processing times.  The SSA plans on hiring an additional 226 ALJ’s in the 2010 fiscal year.  By the middle of 2010, the SSA plans to open seven new hearing offices across the nation.  Fortunately, this increase in hearing offices include Indiana. 

Even with $500 million in federal stimulus money, the disability program will take years to catch up on the hearing backlog. In the meantime, be patient, your day in front of an ALJ will hoepfully come. 

Indianapolis Disability Lawyer Scott D. Lewis understands your frustration with the claims process.  If you would like to discuss your claim with Scott Lewis, call (317) 423-8888 for a free consultation.


Filed under:Hearings Process