The most common call I get is from a current client asking me if I have heard anything about her case. I can understand why clients make these calls. When a disability case is pending at Social Security, not much happens for long stretches. This leads to frustration. So why the delays? Consider what transpires after you put in your request for hearing. Social Security transfers your case to ODAR, the office that holds disability hearings. Within a week or two, ODAR will send you a letter saying they have your claim. They will ask you if you want a video hearing or not. Then everything stops.
There Must Be A Hundred Ways To Do Nothing
ODAR has various classifications for cases in their office. When your case first arrives at ODAR, they are going to tag it as Pending Folder Assembly. So what does that mean? It means that they have not even put your case together into a form that would allow anyone to work on it. You are on the slag heap at this point. After you have been at ODAR for a year or more, somebody will put your case into a folder and you become Ready To Schedule. That sounds promising, doesn't it? Don't hold your breath. You could be sitting in this status for a very long time. Eventually you will reach the promised land of Scheduled. This means you are finally on the calendar---but the hearing could still be 3-4 months away.
No News Is . . . No News
With this background in mind, it is evident that the answer to the query Have you heard anything? is almost always going to be no. This is because there is
nothing to hear. It is important to understand that no one at ODAR is even looking at your case until you are, at most, weeks away from your hearing. It used to be that ODAR would go through their pending files and look for cases that could be resolved short of a hearing. They did this on and off for years. But, now it is just off. Due to budget and staff shortages, ODAR simply has no time to do anything except work on the cases most immediately on the schedule.
Never Hesitate To Call Or Text With Updates
So, you are always welcome to contact me and ask if I have heard anything. But, realize that the answer is going to be no. The first thing I am likely to hear is when your case is scheduled for hearing. When that happens, I will let you know. Naturally, I still want to hear from clients with any significant updates. This is especially true of things like changes of address or telephone number. It's terrible not being able to find people when they finally do get their day in court.
Call The People Who Can Make A Difference
Next time you are tempted to call and ask if I have heard anything, you might consider an alternative. Call your member of Congress or your senator and ask them if they have heard anything about the plight of hundreds of thousands of people who are desperately waiting to have a judge decide their disability cases. That phone call might actually help you get your case heard sooner.