The saying goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” For 2020, the dark, heavy cloud came in the form of a once-in-a-century pandemic. What was the silver lining in the 2020 cloud?
Social Security Administration (SSA) processing times have declined for Americans that submitted Social Security disability claims.
Beginning in the fall of 2020, the SSA added a new service in addition to standard telephone hearings. Working with a Microsoft platform, the SSA established online video hearings that applicants access via any camera-operated electronic communication device.
The result of the move to virtual hearings has reduced the amount of time applicants go through the SSA hearing process.
2020 vs. 2019 Average Hearing Office Processing Time
Although 2020 goes down as one of the most difficult years in our lifetime, the SSA came through with an innovative way to shorten the SSA hearing process. Compared to 2019, the average SSA processing time in 2020 dropped by 25 percent, from 502 days to 390 days.
Some parts of the country led the way in implementing virtual SSA hearings. For example, the Franklin, Tennessee SSA office reduced the average processing time from 418 days in 2019 to 264 days in 2020. The Houston North office also experienced a dramatic decline in the average processing time for an SSA hearing.
How Did the Processing Time Get Faster?
Adding video hearings for applicants seeking Social Security disability benefits certainly made a huge impact on SSA processing times. Instead of technical glitches and the communication issues that arise with telephone conversations, online video hearings for the most part went more smoothly.
According to Commissioner of Social Security, Andrew Saul, the SSA has worked on using video technology during SSA hearings for nearly a decade.
However, full implementation of video technology did not happen until September of 2020. Saul said in an interview that upgrading outdated systems helped the SSA make a seamless transition to online video hearings.
Instead of multiple people getting involved in one telephone conversation, the introduction of video hearings improved the clarity of communication during the SSA hearing process.
Attorneys, witnesses, and medical experts can access a video hearing by using any type of camera-operated electronic communication device. Telephone hearings often bog down due to the confusion of multiple participants talking at the same time.
Improved efficiency has reduced SSA processing times.
What Does A Faster Processing Time Mean?
Lower average processing times mean the SSA can process cases faster, which can lead to quicker approval times for some types of claims.
For example, Compassionate Allowance cases appear to be moving through the SSA system at a faster pace because of the move to video hearings.
Faster approval rates mean claimants get the money they need to pay medical bills and living expenses such as food, housing, and clothing. Quicker access to financial assistance also helps claimants make up for the lost wages caused by a disability.
Getting Help at the Hearing Stage
Working with a Social Security attorney is important whether the SSA conducts your hearing over the phone or online by using a video conferencing tool like Zoom.
Understanding the benefits of an online hearing, your lawyer can request one to move your hearing along at a faster pace. Your attorney can also strengthen your case by helping you gather and organize persuasive medical evidence.
Get the help you deserve during the SSA hearing process by asking for a free case evaluation.