Ft. Wayne, IN Social Security Office Cuts Wait Times for Disability Applicants

Submitted by Shane on

The Social Security Administration (SSA) Office in the city of Ft. Wayne, Indiana has made tremendous strides in cutting the wait time for disability applicants. There are more than 700,000 backlogged applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits nationwide and the expected wait time for the average applicant to receive a determination regarding eligibility for benefits is about 14 months.

What were the Changes Made in Ft. Wayne?

Administrative changes put in place by the Ft. Wayne SSA Office in 2010 resulted in dramatic decreases in wait times for disability applicants, including those who were initially denied disability benefits, filed for appeal and appeared in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for a final determination on eligibility. Prior to the 2010 changes, Indiana residents applying for disability had the fifth longest wait times in the nation, with an average of 17 months passing before Hoosiers received a determination in their SSDI claims.

Thanks to the efficiency measures put in place in the Ft. Wayne office, the average wait time for disability applicants in Indiana was slightly less than 12 months during 2011.

How were those Changes Accomplished?

The strides made by the Ft. Wayne Office have been largely credited to the ready accessibility of federal stimulus funding. Extra funding received through stimulus programs allowed the Ft. Wayne Office to open several additional national hearing centers in order to process more cases more expediently. In pursuit of that same goal, stimulus funds were also directed toward hiring additional attorneys, judges and SSA administrative staff. The improved wait times for disability applicants in Indiana certainly show the success of the efforts.

What does this Mean for Future SSDI Claims?

The improvements seen in Ft. Wayne are mirrored in a few other regions in the U.S. as well, thanks in large part to federal stimulus funds and, of course, dedication on the part of SSA officials and staff.

Unfortunately, those improvements may be short lived, as the stimulus funds have dried up and SSA Offices are now left scrambling to maintain efficiency with reduced staff and other resources at their disposal. As witness to this, two of the four additional ALJs hired by the Ft. Wayne Office utilizing stimulus funds have already been released from service due to reduced funding.

In spite of the dedication of SSA staff and their commitment to serving the needs of the public and the disabled population, the successes celebrated by SSA Offices nationwide may soon return to the status quo, with claimant wait times increasing to the pre-stimulus SSA averages of 14 or more months.

The SSD Application Process in the Post-Stimulus SSA

Those applying for SSDI should anticipate the initial application, and the almost inevitable appeal process, to be quite complex, time consuming, and lengthy. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that any failure on the part of the applicant to sufficiently provide supporting evidence and documentation, or to complete the timely filing of all required data, may result in significant delays in determination on an SSDI claim and/or the denial of benefits altogether.

For this reason, it is often best to have the assistance of a qualified disability attorney or advocate in processing and filing your claim. In fact, the sooner you seek legal assistance, the more likely you are to successfully complete the claims process, including any appeals, and start receiving disability benefits.

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