Even amidst the financial struggles that are currently being faced by the Social Security Administration, the SSA is still working to reduce the overwhelming backlog of Social Security Disability claims that are currently in the system. While the opening of new Social Security offices was put on hold for a time, a new hearing office was just opened in Franklin, TN. How will this new hearing office help the SSA's disability backlog in the state of Tennessee?
The Franklin, TN office that was just opened is not the only office to open this year. It brings the number of Social Security hearing offices opened in 2011 to a total of eight. What does this mean for Franklin, TN Social Security Disability applicants?
Prior to the opening of the new hearing office, Franklin-area disability applicants had to wait an average of approximately 500 days to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits. Now, thanks to the efforts of this new hearing office, that waiting period is expected to be cut in half. This means that applicants who had to wait more than a year for an approval of their Social Security Disability claims (due to the long waiting period for a disability hearing) can now have their benefits approved in well less than a year.
The new Social Security Disability hearing office will not just help Franklin-area Social Security Disability applicants, however, The office is also going to take on workloads from other hearing offices that are currently overwhelmed. The office will help people in need of disability benefits all over the state of Tennessee. Up until the opening off this office, the only hearing offices in Tennessee were located in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Kingsport and Memphis.
The goal of the Franklin office is to have an average processing time of 270 days. Statewide, the average time it takes to process a disability hearing in Tennessee is 326 days, which is a few days less than the national average of 345 days. This means that people who have historically had to wait nearly a year and a half for their disability benefits to be approved will now be awarded benefits at a rate faster than the national average – a relief to many Franklin-area Social Security Disability applicants.
Not only is the new Franklin office able to take some of the workload off of the other Tennessee hearing offices, but it is also incorporating technology that is allowing the hearings held at the office to be processed more quickly. Video hearings are just one of the methods of technology that will be used to fast-track disability claims and provide area residents with faster disability determinations.
The office itself will employ 10 administrative law judges and 50 staff members. While its services will focus mostly on Franklin county and the surrounding Williamson County, disability applicants in McMinnville, Jackson, Columbia, Murfreesboro and Lawrenceburg will also be able to benefit from the services that this new office will provide.
The SSA is making progress in addressing this serious issue of the extraordinarily long waiting period to get approved for disability benefits. Have you noticed any change in the system, or have you had a positive experience applying for disability benefits.