As noted in the past, Social Security Disability and SSI claimants continue to see a worsening trend in terms of hearing office processing or wait times and percentage of claims being approved at the hearing level. This trend has steadily continued over the last few years and has worsened since just July of 2014.
The national average processing time for claims before the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review is up to 402 day, which is an increase of 5 days since July, and up from 372 in December of 2013. Nationally, the average approval rate has remained at 44% though this is down from 46% in December of 2013.
In Tennessee, the average processing time has increased to 430 days, which is an increase of 3 days from July of 2014, and up from 419 in May, 407 days in February, and 388 days in December of 2013. Currently, 50% of cases are being approved, which is a drop from 53% in December of 2013.
I n terms of averages for local hearing offices:
Middlesboro is up to 378 days, which is an increase of 1 day since July, but up from 366 days in February of 2014. The approval rate has dropped to 42%, which is down 1% since July of 2014 and down from 45% in February of 2014.
The Kingsport ODAR is still the fastest in terms of processing time with an average of 341 days, which is actually a DECREASE from 344 days in July, 346 days in May, but still higher than the 326 day processing time in December of 2013. The Kingsport hearing office is also holding steady at 59% of cases being approved.
The Chattanooga ODAR processing times have increased to 467 days, up from 458 days in July, 442 days in May, 429 in February, and 390 days in December. The Chattanooga ODAR is again at 56% of cases approved.
The Knoxville ODAR times are up to 493 days, which is an increase from 487 days in July, 474 in May, 457 days in February, and 406 days in December. Since July, the Knoxville hearing office has stayed steady at 45% of cases being approved though this is still a historic low. In May of 2014, 48% of claims were approved and that was down from 53% in December.
Unfortunately, these numbers confirm that on a whole the average processing times are going up everywhere while the percentage of case approved by ALJs continues to decline.
The hearing office staff work hard and understand the frustrations of the claimants and representatives, but they are hamstrung by the workload and budgetary restraints.