Wait Times Can Be Significant for Social Security Disability Hearings


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Wait Times for Social Security Disability Hearings Can Be Significant

Published on April 6th, 2020 by Eric Slepian

Most people who cannot work because of illness or injury struggle financially to pay their bills – including medical bills – and to keep their heads above water for themselves and for many, for their families. The disabling medical conditions, the stress and the emotional fallout are significantly challenging and rarely sustainable for the long haul.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) (and for some with limited means, Supplemental Security Income (SSI)) is a safety net that pays monthly benefits to claimants who have relatively regular work histories and who are unable to work because of disabling physical or mental medical impairments. But for someone in this position, it can be disheartening to learn that applications all too often take a long time to be approved. Hanging on month after month can be extremely difficult.

Legal Counsel Is an Important Factor

Most applications are denied at the initial stage. Working with an attorney can help to enhance the application because an experienced SSDI lawyer can assist in gathering and submitting medical records and other evidence to support the claim from the beginning. When the claimant’s file contains comprehensive medical evidence early on, the chance of early approval goes up.

However, an SSDI or SSI lawyer in Tucson, AZ can become involved at any stage of the process.

Review and Appeal: ALJ Hearings

SSDI denials may be appealed using up to four levels of review, if necessary. The first is reconsideration, a review of the initial decision by different evaluators. The second level is an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), a Social Security Administration (SSA) employee who makes a decision based on testimony at the hearing and paper evidence like medical records.

ALJ hearings are an important opportunity to tell the claimant’s story face to face with a representative of the agency. An experienced attorney will prepare the claimant for the hearing, submit additional evidence and determine whether to bring any additional witnesses such as family or friends who can talk about the claimant’s limitations.

Unfortunately, it can take months and months for a hearing to be scheduled. Sadly, it is well known that some applicants die while waiting for their hearing to be held or the ALJ decision to be issued. For example, in the fiscal year 2017, 10,002 claimants passed away while their claims were still pending, according to USA Today.

Arizona Wait Times

Some Arizona-specific information is available. According to the Social Security Administration, for cases closed in the month of Dec. 2019, Arizona hearing office averages in months from the time claimants requested hearings until they were held included:

  • Phoenix North 20 months
  • Phoenix 19 months
  • Tucson 14 months

The USA Today article cites an SSA spokesman who said one reason for the delay is the aging of the baby-boom generation. While that may be true, staggering wait times have been problematic for a long time.

Contact Our Team for More Help

We understand how difficult it can be to wait on pins and needles for your hearing. Our SSDI and SSI team in Tucson, AZ here to help you through every challenge that comes your way.

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