When I meet with individuals who have applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and been denied, one of the very first aspects I discuss with a potential client is the timing of an SSD hearing. It is critical to impress upon each potential client that SSD is not a quick or easy way to get money when one is disabled.
In South Central Pennsylvania, SSD cases are conducted at the Social Security Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in downtown Harrisburg. So, from the time an individual files an appeal to the time they actually go before a Social Security Administrative Law Judge, what is the actual time frame? The Office of Adjudication and Review is actually quite good at keeping these timelines updated. Right now, for cases that will be heard in the Harrisburg office, the wait time is 16 months. That wait time begins from the date you actually filed your appeal. The average wait time in Pennsylvania as a whole is 16.4 months.
The Harrisburg office currently has 9 Administrative Law Judges. The Harrisburg office currently has 8,150 cases pending and 762 new cases. Taking that case load and spreading it out over nine judges, well, it isn’t that difficult to see why their is such a backlog of cases, causing the awful wait times. These wait times cause homelessness, poor medical care, bankruptcies, and emotional, financial, and physical stress. According to the SSA, their goal is to reduce wait times to 270 days or under by 2020. They plan to hire an additional 400 judges by 2018. Video hearings by judges in other states with fewer pending cases may also help decrease backlogs. Where those new Judges will be assigned is anyone’s guess.