Social Security Releases Report on Hearings Backlog

Posted on Oct 14, 2015

In a recent report, the Social Security Inspector General reported on the ongoing hearings office backlog. In August 2015, the time it took to process a case from the request for hearing to a final decision was 517 days. The highest ever processing time was back in 2008, when it took 532 days to get a case from a request for hearing to written decision.

Also reported upon is the significant downward trend of allowance rates. The “allowance rate” is the percentage of approved claims versus denied claims. The report identified a few factors contributing to the backlog, including increased hearing requests, decreased Senior Attorney Decisions, and a decrease in available ALJ’s.  Some people think there is a concerted effort to simply get tough on disability applicants.

The report also focused on ALJ productivity, pointing to several factors affecting ALJ productivity, including an increased emphasis on the quality of decisions, further limits on the number of cases assigned, and increased managerial oversight.

Hearings Offices are ranked on processing times. Out of 163 offices, the Portland, Oregon hearings office has an average processing time of 554 days. It is ranked 115th out of 163 offices. The Eugene, Oregon office is ranked 74th out of 163 offices, and takes an average of 512 days to process its decision. These numbers were provided for the month ending August of this year.

As you can see, the backlog times vary form office to office. Here are a few things you can do to minimize the wait:

  • Keep the hearings office updated with medical records. Sometimes, cases are reviewed prior to hearing, and new medical evidence may establish your disability.
  • In some cases, you can request an “on the record review” of your appeal. Depending upon the hearings office involved, a Senior Attorney Advisor may review your case, and issue a decision without you having to actually appear at hearing.
  • If you have been waiting for more than a year, you may consider having your Congressperson make an inquiry on your behalf. Many members of Congress have Social Security Liaisons who work directly with contacts in the Social Security Administration to find out the status of your case.