Los Angeles Social Security Disability Insurance Attorney Vincent Howard of HOWARD LAW understands that following a denial of benefits, the backlog of claims means you are most likely going to wait months before having a hearing to review the findings.
The Social Security Administration periodically issues a report known as the Average Wait Time Until Hearing Held Report. The December figures show that the average wait time for the downtown Los Angeles office is eight months. In Los Angeles West, it's 10 months.
These are relatively lower than what you will find elsewhere in the country. For example, in Miami, FL, the average wait is 14 months. In Portland, OR, it's 15 months.
In Los Angeles downtown office, the agency reported it had received some 1,355 requests for a review hearing in December. While approximately 970 claims were processed, there were nearly 3,100 claims pending during that time, which just illustrates the backlog the agency is dealing with on a regular basis. In the Los Angeles West office, there were about 1,100 requests for a hearing made that same month. The office processed about 1,100 claims, but it still had nearly 3,900 pending that month.
Recently, the administration shut down a number of processing centers in California and throughout the country, which is sure to further increase those wait times.
We understand this wait can be excruciating, especially as you cope with a life-altering condition that has rendered you unable to work - and pay the bills. But we also want to encourage those in the midst of this process to use this time to get prepared. This involves securing the services of an experienced SSDI lawyer who can help you gather all the necessary medical documentation regarding check-ups, treatment, therapies and medication that will help bolster your case.
Even once you have your hearing, it can take several more months to receive a final determination.
What you don't want is to wait all this time only to be denied again because you couldn't prove the extent of your disability. Sometimes people reason that they can't afford an attorney because they are already struggling as it is. We understand this, but the price of failing to do so often necessitates having to wade through further appeals or worse - having to start the process all over again.
There are some cases in which an argument could be made that your case is especially urgent and you require a faster hearing date.
For example, if you have a condition that is named in the Compassionate Allowances list (of which 35 new ailments were added in December), you should be able to bypass the hearing process altogether.
If your condition is not listed there, your attorney can send what's known as a dire need letter. This would be a statement in which the severity of your financial circumstances is highlighted. These would be situations when a person is in danger of eviction, foreclosure or losing access to necessary medicine or treatments.
In some severe cases, you could also request an expedited hearing through the office of a local senator or congressman. Known as a congressional inquiry, it can be tough to acquire, but it can get the ball rolling.
You could also request what is known as an on-the-record review. This would be a situation where a request is made to have a hearing officer review the record or file before the actual hearing date. This can be a risky move unless your medical evidence is especially strong. Such a review might be requested however if you can prove your condition has deteriorated markedly since you first submitted your claim.
Knowing which path will ultimately yield your best chances for successfully obtaining benefits often requires the assistance of an experienced SSDI legal advocate.
Los Angeles Disability Benefits Attorney VINCENT HOWARD at HOWARD LAW can help. You can reach us toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message online.
Average Wait Time Until Hearing Held Report (formerly NETSTAT Report), December 2012 Report, Social Security Administration
Upcoming SSDI Review? Contact a Lawyer, Feb. 1, 2013