Each month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) produces a report ranking all of the hearings offices in the agency based upon the average time to process an appeal at the Office of Hearings and Appeals level. The report is based upon the average time taken by SSA to process all claims completed in the month in which the report is produced, computed from the day a request for hearing was filed in the agency to the day a decision was rendered by the administrative law judge assigned to the claim. In the month of June 2009, the last month for which data is available, the Newark, NJ hearings office ranked 64th out of 142 hearings offices nationwide, with an average processing time of 476 days, or about 1 year and 4 months! The hearing office with the fastest time, ranked number 1 in the nation in June, is located in Portland, Maine, with an average processing time of 274 days. In contrast, the hearings office in Indianapolis, Indiana was ranked 142nd in the nation, and had the slowest processing time reported, 724 days, or almost 2 years. It is a troubling report, when you consider, first, that a hearing is just one step in a four step administrative appeals process within the SSA agency, and, second, that the claimants waiting for decisions on their SSA disability claims cannot work due to their medical conditions and are usually living hand-to-mouth during the entire appeals process. Many claimants must file for welfare and are financially devastated while waiting for their SSA claims to be approved.

Source: the July 2009 Social Security Forum newsletter published by the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives (NOSSCR).