In many parts of the US, people wait two years for a hearing – and this is after going through two levels of appeal that can make the wait more like three years. Congress is paying attention as a new Social Security Commissioner is being grilled on the problems. From the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch:
In 2004, the Social Security Administration under then commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart added more judges and other employees and sent about 5,000 Cleveland cases to hearing offices in other parts of the country where they were heard by teleconference.
The wait time for a hearing dropped slightly, from 20.6 months in fiscal 2004 to 19.2 months in fiscal 2006, according to numbers provided by the Social Security Administration.
But the waiting list actually grew longer. In 2004, Ohio Sen. George Voinovich said it had 8,796 names on it. Data from March 2006 shows the number of people waiting grew to 10,803. In the 11 months since, it has jumped to 12,609.
Critics say to fix the system more needs to be done, including revamping the initial application process so that it’s simpler and more truly needy people get benefits right away, not get turned down because they made in error in the complicated application process.