The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program provides a financial lifeline to individuals who can no longer support themselves due to a disabling condition. Through FICA payroll taxes individuals pay into the program, earning themselves SSDI protection in the event that they become disabled.
However, many deserving applicants find themselves frustrated and financially strapped as they await a decision from the Social Security Administration (SSA). As more and more workers apply for disability benefits, a massive administrative backlog has forced many claimants to wait.
What is the Average Wait time for an Appeals Hearing?
As it currently stands, more than 1 million Americans await an appeals hearing. These individuals, who have been denied SSDI benefits in the initial stages of the application process, must wait, on average over 600 days for an appeals hearing. For many, the two-year wait means that their illness has progressed and they are facing a very difficult financial hardship.
The average wait time from the request for a hearing until the hearing is held is largely dependent on where the claimant lives. *Social Security data from March 2018 shows that places like Providence, RI, have the shortest wait times of only ten months. On the other hand, places like New York City and Chicago have average wait times of 24 and 25 months respectively. Unsurprisingly, states with higher populations tend to have more prolonged appeals hearing wait times.
Is There Anything I can do to Expedite the Process?
Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to speed up the SSDI appeals process. However, one thing you can do is appeal any denials as soon as possible. The sooner you file for an appeal, the higher up in the waiting cue your application will be.
Further, continuing to update your file with new medical evidence might help to speed things up. If the ALJ reviews your updated file before your appeals hearing, it is possible that he or she might grant a disability award approval before the hearing even occurs.
Will an Attorney be Able to Speed the Appeals Process Along?
Unfortunately, an attorney will have very little influence over the scheduling of appeals hearings. Once your file has been sent for an appeals hearing, it is out of the hands of the claims representatives at your local Social Security office.
With that being said, there are some things that an experienced Social Security attorney can do to assist with your application process. First and foremost, your disability lawyer can make sure that you do not miss essential appeals dates or schedules. As you await your hearing, your attorney can continue to gather and submit medical data on your behalf. Finally, if your condition significantly worsens, your attorney may be able to request an on-the-record (OTR) review.