Anselmo A. Alegria, Partner, Alegria & Barovick LLP, says the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) must remedy the backlog of Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims and reduce the wait times for these hearings. He says that, to combat these delays, the federal government should boost staffing, especially where the wait and processing times are the slowest.

According to the Disability Judges website (http://www.disabilityjudges.com/state), the average wait time for a SSD or SSI hearing nationwide is 15.9 months and the average processing time is 510 days. What is even more disappointing is that, on average, America’s Administrative Law Judges dispose of less than two cases per day and, of all the cases brought before them, less than half — 44% — are approved. The rest are either denied (37%) or dismissed (20%).

“These statistics show how far behind the Administrative Law Judges are in hearing and processing Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income claims,” Mr. Alegria says. “The federal government should increase funding to fill in any judicial vacancies in these offices where wait and processing times are still an issue and hire more support staff to expedite these claims. There are some clients who are still waiting to have their cases approved. We are encouraging them not to give up hope.”

Mr. Alegria says the upside to the delays is that it allows his office extra time to bolster their clients’ claims before they are submitted for review. “We want to make sure all the information is there before it goes before the Administrative Law Judge,” he says. “We urge our clients to contact us as soon as their initial application for benefits has been denied, so that we can begin the appeal process. Once we alert the Social Security Administration to a client’s appeal, there are several steps to take to make sure that he or she presents the strongest case possible. The backlogs give us additional time to supplement them. We will take great care of these claims to give our clients the best chance that they will be approved.”