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Why the wait for a Social Security Hearing is so long.

Over and over clients ask why they have to wait so long for their Social Security disability hearing.  Many times they blame their attorney for not pushing their case forward.  Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to speed up your case, except in extremely dire situations.  Even then, it may take six or more months to get a dire need expedited hearing.

Social Security issues well over a half million hearing decisions each year, issuing almost 800,000 hearing decisions in fiscal year 2011 (and almost 200,000 from September 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, 2012 fiscal year).   In 2011 there were over 850,000 requests for hearings filed (215,000 filed from September 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011 for the 2012 fiscal year).  Thus for every decision issued, SSA gets a new request for hearing.

Think of the wait for your hearing as standing in line.  When you file your request for hearing your getting in line at the hearing office.  Ahead of you are all the people that filed their requests before you.  As SSA takes some people out of the line in front of you, more are added in behind you.  There is a finite number of cases that each hearing office can complete each day and each year.  Judges are like you and me.  They work normal hours and cannot hold hearings every working hour.  They need time to read files, research law, and make their decisions.  On days a judge holds hearing, they usually hear about 5-6 cases a day.  Each hearing can take 60-90 minutes, with 5-10 minute breaks between hearings and a break for lunch.

But there are still things that can be done to help your case along.  As soon as I get the file on new hearings, I review the case for mistakes made by DDS which could result in a quick approval.  I also evaluate the case for an On the Record request.  This could result in the judge awarding your case without the need for a hearing.  Sometimes this can be done early in the hearing wait, but in some cases you need to develop more information from your treating doctor’s before filing the request.

No one wants to delay your case, but the Social Security disability system is large and each claimant must wait for their spot in line to come to the front.  While there are a few things I can do to try to win an early approval, unfortunately most will have to wait their turn.