Each and every year the Social Security Administration (SSA) receives millions of claims for Social Security Disability benefits. Many people are surprised to find out that the majority of these claims are actually denied by the SSA. In fact, only approximately 30 percent of the disability applications are approved during the initial stage of the claim process. The remaining 70 percent of applicants must pursue the disability appeal process in order to obtain the benefits they need.
Pursuing a disability appeal with the SSA might not be so daunting if most applicants did not have to wait two or more years before being scheduled for a disability hearing. When you are suffering from a severe disability and are unable to work, waiting two years to have your day in court is not acceptable – especially when that means two years without any means of income or medical insurance to help you make ends meet.
Why does it take so long for a disability hearing to be scheduled? And more importantly, what is being done about the unreasonable wait times? There may be good news on the horizon for Social Security Disability applicants who must undergo a disability hearing.
New ODAR Offices on the Horizon
The Offices of Disability and Adjudication Review (ODAR) are the SSA offices that are in charge of scheduling and managing the disability hearings for SSDI applicants. In an effort to reduce the backlog of the Social Security Disability claims that are currently in the system, thereby reducing the hearing wait times, the SSA has opened additional ODAR offices to help with the backlog of disability cases.
More Administrative Law Judges
Of course the ODAR offices themselves cannot entirely address the backlog of disability cases in the system. There are only so many administrative law judges who can conduct these disability hearings and these judges can only process a limited number of hearings each day. The SSA has recognized this fact and has hired more administrative law judges in order to move more Social Security Disability appeals through the system more quickly.
There are also video conferencing options that make it possible for an administrative law judge to conduct a hearing without the disability applicant actually being present in the same room. This means that the Social Security Disability applicant's case can be heard earlier, eliminating the need to schedule a hearing at a local ODAR office or actually meet the judge in person.
Nothing Changes Overnight
It is important to note that the changes being made by the Social SSA are commendable, but nothing changes overnight. There is a large backlog of disability appeals to work through and millions of Social Security Disability hearings to schedule. This is, however, a step in the right direction and the increase in the number of ODAR offices and the number of administrative law judges overseeing the disability hearings will eventually make the wait times much more manageable; ensuring that disabled individuals can obtain their hearings and their benefits in a timelier manner.