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National SSDI hearing processing times continue to lengthen

We have previously discussed several aspects of the hearings and appeals process for people who have been denied benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. As a reminder, these hearings happen only after the Social Security Administration has made a negative decision on an application, and a review by a different SSA officer has reached the same conclusion. The hearings are held before an Administrative Law Judge.

While the rate of approvals, as a percentage, are higher among ALJs than at the initial SSA level, one complaint about the process is that it takes a long time, in many cases, for a hearing to be held. As a government agency, the SSA publishes public information about the processing times of its caseload, and an overview of hearing processing times can be found in this graph from the administration.

As you can see, the bars in the graph are divided into fiscal years. The fiscal year for the United States government begins Oct. 1, and ends on Sept. 30. The text box in the chart points out that the average processing time for appeals cases has decreased by 11 days between 2009 and 2015. However, astute readers may notice that most of this decrease occurred between 2009 and 2012, when the average processing time shrank from 491 days to under a year. Indeed, since 2012, average processing times have exploded back up to 480 for fiscal year 2015, and, to date for 2016, delays are up to over 500 days.

While there’s very little applicants can do about government processing times, the wait for needed benefits can be devastating. One way to potentially avoid these delays is to have one’s application approved on the first try, at the SSA officer level. This requires knowing what the SSA looks for in SSDI cases and understanding how to organize it in a logical, coherent fashion. Considering consulting with an experienced Ohio disability attorney may help in avoiding the need for an appeal.

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