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Social Security Disability - What Takes So Long?

Many individuals who apply for social security disability or supplemental security income are surprised by how long it takes to receive a decision on their claim.

If it is necessary to go through the initial and reconsideration levels and eventually a hearing, the process can approach 2 years. In July 2015, the average hearing office processing time had increased to 511 days. The record high occurred in August 2008 at 532 days. At the end of fiscal year 2014, the average processing time was 422 days. The length of processing a social security disability claim is dependent on a number of factors:

  • Pending claims at the hearing level. The number of pending claims at the hearing level hit the one million mark in November 2014, and has continued to increase every month since. In July 2015, there were 1,056,071 pending claims.

  • Dispositions per Administrative Law Judge. The Social Security Administration closely monitors the number of decisions each Administrative Law Judge issues on a daily basis. Generally speaking, the Administrative Law Judges have averaged 2.3 decisions per day. In October 2014, it had fallen under 2.00 to 1.97. However, in June 2015 it was 2.06 but climbed to 3.03 in July 2015.

  • Social Security Administration's need for adequate resources. For many years, SSA did not receive adequate funds to provide its mandated services. While additional funding was provided between 2008 and 2010, the trend has not continued. The National Organization of Social Security Claimant's Representatives, of which I am a member, continues to work with advocates to ensure that the Social Security Administration has adequate resources to carry out its workload.

  • ODAR efforts to hire more Administrative Law Judges. The Social Security Administration was hoping to hire 250 new ALJs this fiscal year and another 250 in fiscal year 2016. The ability to hire more ALJs is dependent on adequate funding. The budget for fiscal year 2015 was slightly improved but the fiscal year 2016 budget (which starts October 1, 2015) has not been finalized by Congress.

It is very important when proceeding with a social security disability claim that you have your claim fully developed so that you do not encounter any unnecessary delays when going through the application and hearing process. Please feel free to contact our law firm for assistance with your social security disability claim.

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