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St Louis Social Security Disability Lawyer Cites News Article about the Backlog of Hearings in Missouri

June 20, 2011

If you have been wondering why it is taking so long for your Social Security Disability Hearing to be scheduled, you should read this article from USA Today.

Backlog Grows for Social Security Appeals

By Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY

More than 728,000 Americans are awaiting appeal hearings for Social Security disability benefits, a 5% jump in pending cases during the last year, a new report shows.

The increase, partly a result of more disabled persons unable to find jobs during the recession, may make it harder for the Social Security Administration to continue reducing waiting times for benefits rulings, according to the analysis.

“History shows that if this growth is unchecked, as hearing dockets become more and more clogged, wait times will grow,” said the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data research organization at Syracuse University that studied the data through March 31.

Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue questioned the significance of the increase in pending appeals, which new data from the agency shows have jumped to 740,998 as of May 27. While TRAC officials said that buttressed their report’s findings, Astrue said the more meaningful measure was the faster processing and decision-issuing times produced by his agency’s improvement efforts.

However, he said it was uncertain whether the agency would meet its goal to reduce the average waiting time for benefits — 367 days on average nationally for October through April — to 270 days by 2013. The TRAC report cites agency statistics that show wait times peaked at an average of 514 days for cases disposed of in federal fiscal year 2008.

“That’s a fair question,” said Astrue, noting that his agency has been hit by federal budget cuts that forced cancellation of plans to open eight additional hearing offices. “I think we will continue to make progress. Whether we will hit the goal on time … I don’t know. I think we will be close.”

The TRAC report examined data from the system that handles applications for Social Security Disability Insurance, which pays benefits to those who show they have long-term injuries that prevent them from working, and Supplemental Security Income, designed for aged, blind or disabled people who have little or no income.

In all, the two programs will account for more than $180 billion in benefit outlays for an estimated 18.3 million people during federal fiscal year 2011, federal data shows.

Applicants first apply to local agencies in their states, who handle initial reviews. Those who are denied twice are entitled to appeal to one of the Social Security Administration’s nearly 1,400 administrative law judges, competitively appointed officials who issue rulings on benefits appeals applications.

The number of pending cases varies from state to state, the TRAC analysis found. Connecticut, Arkansas and Louisiana had the highest percentage declines from March 2010 to March 2011, while Nevada, Georgia and New Mexico had the largest increases during that time.

Ethel Zelenske, government affairs director for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, said the decrease in waiting times is more significant than the increase in pending cases.

“Even though more cases are coming in, they’re deciding cases faster. For someone who’s applying for benefits, that’s the bottom line,” Zelenske said. “The concern is, will the SSA be able to continue the progress that’s been made? And that’s tied to the budget.”

An excellent read from USA Today. Please call us today for a free consultation regarding your social security disability claim at (314) 766-4697 or on the web at