Miami applicants seeking hearings about their claims for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits have the longest wait times in the United States - 22 months. Some people die waiting. Others become homeless.
Applicants request hearings when their initial claims for SSD benefits are denied. Around 60 percent of claims are denied at the first stage, forcing the disabled to appeal and request a hearing before an administrative law judge, or ALJ. These judges handle huge caseloads and are under pressure both to weed out unworthy claims and to get through backlogs quickly.
Whether in Miami or elsewhere, these are contradictory goals. ALJs who process many appeals are accused of rubber stamping and awarding benefits to the so-called "undeserving." ALJs who perform due diligence and carefully review each appeal are accused of holding up benefits awards to those who desperately need them.
The Social Security Administration reports that it has authorized two more ALJ positions for the Miami office to help speed things up, but it is uncertain when the positions will be filled.
The long waits for hearings are not the only problem plaguing the Miami office and many other offices around the country. People who appeal a decision typically wait four to five months after the hearing to receive a decision about their cases.
Although Miami has the longest hearing wait times, other offices are close behind. Brooklyn, New York; Spokane, Washington; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Fort Myers, Florida, have 20-month waits. Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, have waittimes averaging 19 months.
Wherever you live, if you have scheduled a hearing about your SSD benefits denial with an administrative law judge, do not go alone. Instead, enlist an advocate from Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. They will help you develop the strongest case possible for receiving the benefits you need.