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Social Security Hearing Offices Backlog Continues (June 2008)

Published on June 18th, 2008

The delays in obtaining a determination at the Social Security hearing office unfortunately continue. Nationally, it takes 511 days to obtain a determination from the date a Request for Hearing was filed. In the Chicago area, three of the four local Social Security hearing offices are behind the national average. As of early 2008, cases assigned to the downtown Chicago Social Security hearing office were taking an average of 544 days from the filing of the appeal to reach decision. Even slower were cases from the south suburbs (580 days) and the west suburbs (665 days). Only the north suburban Evanston hearing office was quicker than the national average (457 days). These statistics were compiled for the month ending February 29, 2008.

The Social Security Administration has recently announced the hiring of 135 additional Judges which hopefully will help to eventually chip away at the backlog.

As of January 2008, about 735,000 Social Security disability cases were awaiting a hearing on appealed claims, more than double the number of pending cases just eight years earlier. The Social Security hearing offices allow senior staff attorneys to review and approve cases without a hearing. The cases most likely to be screened are those where medical treatment is continuing and demonstrates ongoing severe problems. It is crucial that a Claimant continue to treat with his doctor and to receive appropriate medical attention. Aside from the obvious health problems, ongoing treatment is the best way to document the severity of medically disabling problems.

It is very important to challenge a denial determination of the Social Security Administration if your case is severe and you cannot work. Only thirty-five (35%) percent of initial claims were allowed and 65% were denied in fiscal year 2007. Of the cases appealed to the next (Reconsideration) level, 87% were denied. However, nearly 2/3 (62%) of those cases taken to the hearing level were eventually approved. It pays to be persistent!

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