Unfortunately, in 95% of cases, attending a Social Security hearing is the only path to receiving disability benefits. The hearing itself is relatively short: it usually takes about one hour. However, the time between the lodging of a request and the actual hearing can take up to 18 months.
There are, however, exceptions to the rule. A small percentage of claimants can be fast-tracked, including those who are mentally ill, homicidal, or suicidal; those living in shelters; and those who are unable to access food and/or shelter. These are very rare exceptions, though, and there are many others in urgent need who are forced to wait.
The simple answer to the above question is that, like most government agencies, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is understaffed and overworked. However, there are some positive signs. More staff are being recruited, and bylaws have been introduced to allow judges to identify and award claimants for whom they deem it unnecessary to appear. Unfortunately, the financial crisis and the ensuing recession have put a lot of extra strain on the SSA. Greater numbers are applying for benefits now than ever before. So, despite the moves toward greater efficiency in the administrative process, a long wait can still be expected. Regardless, you should consult with an experienced Social Security lawyer to understand the best options for minimizing this wait and maximizing your changes of a successful hearing.
Articles on this blog are provided for informational purposes only. Use of this blog does not provide or replace individualized legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice, please speak with one of our attorneys, who can offer legal advice specific to your circumstances.