Most people who receive Social Security Disability benefits are awarded benefits after a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). It is a very bad time for Social Security claimants waiting for a Social Security hearing with an ALJ. This fall the number of claimants waiting for a hearing exceeded 1 million. The national average wait time for a hearing decision was 602 days – almost two years. See the AP article here: https://apnews.com/b032d9641f6940bbb4c7eaad9387c817. In Montana, the average number of days until final disposition of the hearing request for our local hearings office is 569 days.
What is the reason for the disability hearing backlog? The The Social Security Administration (SSA) is underfunded and understaffed. For the majority of the wait time, a claim is in a backlogged “ready to be scheduled” status.
We understand that these wait times are devastating for claimants, but there are a few things you can do to expedite the hearing process. First, write or call your Senators and Representatives and tell them how the incredibly long wait time is adversely affecting you. Ask your Senators and Representatives to conduct a congressional inquiry into your case. Also, tell your Senators and Representatives to adequately fund the Social Security Administration so that it can efficiently and properly decide claims and provide benefits to people who depend on them.
If you are stuck in the hearing backlog, you should continue with your regular medical treatment. Please make sure that your doctor understands your symptoms and limitations, including any side effects of medications. Use the wait time to document your severe impairments and any resulting limitations.
Additionally, you should contact an experienced attorney to epresent you in your Social Security Disability claim long before your hearing is scheduled. The SSA must provide written notice of the hearing at least 75 days prior the hearing. An experienced attorney can develop evidence for the claimant’s case which may allow the ALJ to issue a favorable on the record decision without the wait for a hearing. Also, the attorney can help claimants comply with the new rules regarding submitting evidence prior to the hearing and make sure that the ALJ has all the relevant medical evidence to support your claim.
In a limited number of cases, the SSA will expedite a claim if the claimant can establish dire need such as the claimant is without food and is unable to obtain food; the claimant lacks medicine or medical care; or the claimant lacks shelter (for example, homelessness, expiration of a shelter stay, or imminent eviction or foreclosure with no means to remedy the situation or obtain shelter). Similiarly, the SSA will expedite claims for claimants with certain impairments, usually those which are terminal. An experienced attorney can help with these requests to expedite processing of the claims.
If you are one of the million people currently waiting for a hearing, please contact Murphy Law Firm at (406) 452-2345 or visit us at www.murphylawoffice.net for a free consultation on your Social Security claim.