It is no longer news to say that Social Security is hopelessly behind on holding hearings in disability cases. But just how long might you have to wait? It depends on where you live.
Social Security tracks the waiting times at all of their hearing offices. You can see the data here.
The Numbers Ain't Pretty
Digging into the numbers reveals some shocking results. For example, the best that any hearing office in the country is doing as of August, 2016 is Fort Smith,
AR. This model of efficiency is holding hearings a mere 7.5 months after they receive a request. As for the longest wait time? Well, it's not a good time to be trying to get benefits in Buffalo, NY, Fayetteville, NC or Ponce, in Puerto Rico. In any of those locations, you are looking at 26 months, or more than 2 years. As with any data from the Federal government, I am little suspicious. I note that Social Security claims the current wait time in Tucson is 17 months. In fact, it is well more than that. My experience shows that Tucson is at least 20 months. If this example holds across the nation, then all the reported wait periods are probably 15% longer than the data shows.
Disabled? Got Three (Or More) Years To Wait?
It is a scandal that the shortest waiting time in the nation, 7.5 months, should be the longest. If every hearing office in the country was at 7.5 months, that would be terrible. 26 months is simply inexcusable. Save for the VA, I cannot think of another example of government benefits where applicants have to wait so long just to get their cases heard. Keep in mind that waiting for a hearing is only one part of the process of getting Social Security benefits. Most claimants will have already sunk a year or more into their applications before even requesting a hearing. The total time involved in the worst regions of the country are easily in excess of three years. If you lose in front of the judge and want to appeal? Tack on another 18 months of waiting.
Did Orwell Design The SSA System?
As I have noted before, Social Security's response to falling behind is to go slower. This is Orwellian. Try to imagine any other enterprise that would respond to a crisis by intentionally making it worse.