Why are there such long delays at the hearing office?
Unfortunately, there are always major delays at the hearing office. In 2013 the office in Augusta shut down and all cases were transferred to Columbia, South Carolina. What used to take about a year to get a hearing is now taking two years or more, it is a very frustrating situation. The most important thing to remember with this delay is that our clients stay in contact with us to make sure that we know where they are getting their medical care and to have current contact information. The clients must stay in contact with us because we order the most up to date medical records while waiting for the hearing to happen. Conditions can change and we can request an on the record decision, meaning if medical records show you are not fit for work they will award favorable decision before you get a hearing.
Are there certain situations where the Social Security office will take a case and put to the front of the line?
If you have a case which went to the Appeals Council with Federal Court and came back for another hearing or reconsideration of evidence then that case takes priority, as do wounded veterans. You can request a critical need hearing, for example if you’re being evicted, but even if those critical needs requests are accepted it still takes months to get that hearing. Six years ago it was taking over three years to get a hearing. It slowed down, but unfortunately it’s creeping back up. The offices we’re dealing with have a couple of judges that are retiring, the situation is not going to get better anytime soon.