The Atlanta region has long been one of Social Security’s busiest ares for disability claims. In the mid-2000’s, when there were only two hearing offices in the metro area, these two offices were each in the bottom ten in terms of how long it took for a hearing to be scheduled – each office experienced delays well over 2 years.
Since then, SSA opened, then closed a video hearing office in Marietta, and they have opened a new hearing offices to the Atlanta metro area – a live judge hearing office located in Covington.
While this new hearing offices has helped, the current economic downturn and budget cuts at SSA have caused the delays to inch back up.
Most of the cases I try involve claimants who applied more than 2 years previously. In my office, at least, the average case is pending for at least 2 years. I do not see this trend changing anytime soon. We are again seeing more use of video technology whereby judges throughout the country are hearing Atlanta area cases on video. I expect this trend to continue.
I do give credit to former Social Security Commissioner Astrue for implementing a paperless filing system. Ten years ago, Social Security files consisted of giant cardboard files. Now, attorneys like me and Social Security personnel can access case files electronically over the Internet.
I have also noticed that the judges before whom I appear are much more focused on processing their files quickly. They are reluctant to leave your record open for additional medical documents, and judges are much more willing to issue abbreviated “bench decisions” that speed up the process.