The short answer is a lack of funding for the Social Security Administration from Congress. Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) have not had an increase in funding in many years. SSA officials have told Congress that they need more Social Security Administrative Law Judges and support staff to administer the hearings. However, Congress has yet to provide that money. This issue has been in the news lately.
Claimants who have been denied Social Security Disability benefits can wait months or even years to plead their case before an administrative law judge. When a hearing is finally scheduled, attendance is important. The hearing office is required to provide at least 75 days advance written notice of the hearing. Hearings may be conducted in person, by video teleconferencing (VTC), or by telephone. If you cannot make your scheduled appointment time, you or your appointed representative should notify the Social Security Administration Hearing Office immediately to request a postponement.
You've probably heard that the state of Illinois is not in great shape economically.
At step three of the sequential evaluation process, the adjudicator must determine whether the claimant's diagnosable medical impairments meet or equal a Listing of Impairments. The Listing of Impairments describes the medical criteria for each body system considered severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any gainful activity. Essentially, the listings are a "short-cut" to getting on disability. Examples of medical diagnoses that meet the Listing of Impairments would include small cell carcinoma of the lungs (Listing 13.14B), amputation of both hands (Listing 1.05A), or an aortic aneurysm with uncontrolled dissection (Listing 4.10). Approximately 25-30% of all disabled beneficiaries meet the level of severity for listings.
Many claimants are understandably nervous when it's time for a disability hearing.
The average waiting period for a hearing after a request for a hearing has been filed is 12-18 months. The wait time can vary depending on what state you live in but most states have at least a 12 month wait time. This is a very long time to wait . The wait time exists for several reasons, including a shortage of administrative law judges to hear cases.
The Social Security Administration has issued a new rule regarding when written evidence is submitted to the court. Previously, written evidence such as medical records were submitted as soon as possible and preferably at least a week before the hearing. However, there was no official rule or regulation regarding when evidence was submitted.
With the impending change of administrations, many are speculating on potential modifications to federal programs, such as Social Security. Some persons in the Social Security Administration have even questioned why an attorney is necessary at a hearing. Isn't the informal process non-adversarial? Can we reduce judicial reversals and procedural errors without interference from counsel? While any attempts to improve efficiencies are laudable, the right to counsel should not be easily dismissed.
Even if you've watched a lot of courtroom dramas on TV, social security disability hearings are likely a little different from what you might expecting.
Getting ready for a disability hearing can be a very stressful experience. Many people are not familiar court. Disability hearings are usually more informal than typical hearings. The judge might be wearing a robe, the judge will formally admit records into evidence and swear people to tell the truth but other than that, they can be informal.