Social Security Disability recipients should be pleased to know that a new Social Security office has opened on Claussen Road, serving the greater Augusta area. The office hopes to reduce the backlog of other offices in the region. Processing times for Social Security claims in Georgia, as well as the rest of the United States, is extremely slow, sometimes averaging well over 400 days. The new office hopes to help more people through faster processing of claims and hearing appeals.
According to Michael Astrue, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration as of 2007, he has focused on increasing efficiency of Social Security Disability claims processing despite an alarming increase in disability applicants and federal budget cuts. The Social Security Administration has actually succeeded in reducing processing and hearing times for applicants from as much as 514 days to 360 days. Still, the process is much too slow for the many Social Security Disability recipients who are desperate for some relief.
The Social Security Disability Hearing Process
The Social Security Disability hearing and appeals process offers Social Security Disability applicants the opportunity to appeal denials or decisions regarding their Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments. Individuals who disagree with decisions may request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and file a review request with the Appeals Council.
The Social Security Disability hearing process is initiated after an individual's application for benefits has been denied at either the initial or reconsideration levels of the Social Security Disability Claim. At a hearing, individuals are given the opportunity to testify their case (usually with the help of a lawyer or advocate). The process is slow because there are only 161 hearing offices scattered throughout the country, serving tens of thousands of appeals every year.
It may take up to six months for the original Social Security Disability claim to be decided, and, if denied, another six months just for the reconsideration of a claim to be reviewed and decided. While paperwork for requesting a hearing in front of an administrative law judge may only take 10 minutes to complete, waiting for a hearing date in the office closest to your location can take anywhere between six months and two years. Why? The bottom line is the Social Security Administration doesn't have enough manpower or resources to quickly move so many cases through the process. Claims representatives, clerks and disability examiners are inundated with millions of claims every year, adding to the already-long wait times.
A Brighter Future
The average wait time for a hearing process in Georgia has decreased from 643 days in 2008 to 266 days in 2010. The new Augusta office employs 10 administrative law judges and a support staff of 50, serving cases from Augusta and the surrounding communities. Hopefully this will mean even shorter waiting periods in 2011 and beyond.