Wait Times for Social Security Disability Hearings

How long you have to wait to get your Social Security disability hearing is one of the most common questions I receive in my Colorado disability law office. Each disability representative has his or her own experience with the wait times. However, you do not have to rely on knowing a disability lawyer to get the Social Security hearing wait times. You can use the same information attorneys use! Continue reading Wait Times for Social Security Disability Hearings

Can I get Social Security disability without losing income?

I was recently asked the following question:

I need my job to survive. I can’t quit. I have some vacation days and sick time, but it is not enough to go without pay until they tell me I qualified.

How do I still work and file for SS Disability without loosing any income?

I have previously discussed working while applying for disability benefits. However, this question presents some new issues.

Here is why: Continue reading Can I get Social Security disability without losing income?

Don’t go to your Social Security disability hearing with out-of-date medical records!


It surprises my clients to learn that, most of the time, Social Security does not update medical records after the initial denial.

With wait times of a year or more, this can mean that by the time your case gets in front of a judge, the records in your file may be a year (or more) old, and your recent treatment may not be in the file at all.

This is not the way the system is supposed to work.
Continue reading Don’t go to your Social Security disability hearing with out-of-date medical records!

Furloughs (further) delay Social Security disability decisions


We all know Social Security cases take too long. Well, get ready for more delays! 

In spite of increasing number of new claims for disability, Governors around the nation are requiring disability examiners (the very people who make the decisions in Social Security cases) take unpaid furloughs. 

The nation’s top Social Security official says benefits for tens of thousands of people with severe disabilities are being delayed by furloughs and layoffs of state employees around the country. ….

State officials have announced furloughs, layoffs and hiring freezes to help balance budgets battered by the recession. 

The cutbacks come as disability claims are rising because of high unemployment, the weak economy and the aging of the baby boom generation.

The Social Security Administration expects nearly 3 million new disability claims this year, up from 2.6 million in 2008. Each month the agency pays $12 billion in disability benefits to more than 13 million people.

Dr. Dann said he had to take off every other Friday. “I can review about 20 disability cases a day, and I am off two days a month,” he said. “So I do 40 fewer cases a month.”

via State Cuts Delay U.S. Benefits, Official Says – NYTimes.com.

Long Social Security hearing delays? “Blame the judges!”

Screaming man

The long wait times in Social Security cases are prompting a backlash against Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) in Social Security cases.  

Across the country, it takes an average of 480 days to get a judge’s ruling on a Social Security disability claim — but 650 days if your case is in Portland.

The problems in Portland reflect a broader national crisis, according to Social Security Administration records … Only about half the agency’s administrative law judges meet its minimum goal of clearing 500 cases a year.


In October 2007, Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue met with a delegation of judges from around the country and … complained that many were not productive enough, according to the union that represents the judges. Astrue also accused them of not wanting to be subjected to any professional standards.

The commissioner has testified before Congress that the bulk of administrative law judges are hardworking. But he has griped about underachievers, and the agency set performance goals that ask judges to clear 500 to 700 cases a year..

Grab the pitch forks!  Light the torches!  It’s the judges’ fault!

Of course, things are not that simple. Continue reading Long Social Security hearing delays? “Blame the judges!”

Social Security backlog & funding update

New figures are out about the Social Security backlog (September 2008 issue of the Social Security Forum):

  • The number of cases waiting for a decision at Social Security reached a record high of 767,000
  • The average wait time is 532 days, with wait times varying between 283 days and 943 days (just under three years).

In my own experience, Colorado cases are processed a bit faster than the national average: I see wait times are approximately 12-18 months (365- 545 days),  with most cases having a hearing scheduled around the 14 months after a request for hearing this filed.

Funding for Social Security for the first six months of fiscal year 2009 (which began on October 1, 2008), is at fiscal year 2008 levels.

In other words,  Social Security will not receive any additional funds for the first six months of fiscal year 2009, greatly limiting Social Security’s ability to deal with the backlog. 

Source: NOSSCR Forum September 2008.

Letters to the Next President

I recently came across this letter on the Letters to the Next President site:

I would like to know about changes in social security-specifically disability. … I worked as an LPN for over 30 years. I started having back, neck and arthritic probelems, and after several years of pain I applie for social security disability. The process was long. It took approximately 2 years from the time I applied untill I was finally approved, and then receive a paycheck. If it had not been for my family helping me financially, I don’t know what I would have done. Isn’t there any way to speed up this process for other people who may desperately need money?

I wish I could say this was the exception, but as most of us know, long wait times are unfortunately the norm in Social Security cases.  

Send your Social Security stories to the president, or leave them in the comments.

How long does It take to get a Social Security hearing?

In my experience with Colorado Social Security cases, hearings are usually scheduled approximately 12-14 months after the appeal is filed.   That is the most common time frame that I see for having a hearing scheduled.

However,  I occasionally see cases scheduled as early as six months after the appeal (this is pretty rare), and sometimes as late as 18 months.

This is a long time! For most people there is a real question of how they are going to make ends meet while waiting for their case to go in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

However, it is important to try to make the best use of this time: Continue reading How long does It take to get a Social Security hearing?

CBS Reports: 2/3rds of Claims are Denied, Appeals Taking Over 2 Years

CBS reports on denials and long waiting periods in Social Security Disability cases.

Disability Pay Rejections A two-month CBS News investigation has revealed that many individuals who are disabled are either being rejected or waiting years for a decision on benefits. Armen Keteyian reports.Social Security Criticized

Part 1 (click for video)

The Social Security Administration refuses over two-thirds of the applications it receives for disability benefits. Armen Keteyian investigates what some call a “system-wide culture to deny” claims.

Part 2 (click for video)