The latest statistics for processing times for disability claims at the Social Security hearing offices around the country have been released by the SSA, and reprinted in the April 2012 NOSSCR Social Security Forum newsletter.
Waiting times continue to shorten in Portland, Maine. The average wait for a hearing decision is now 377 days – just about 12 months. This is an improvement over the waiting time of 392 days that I reported three months ago. I have definitely noticed an uptick in the pace at the Portland ODAR, and recently claims have been set for hearing at a furious rate.
The improvement in Portland is partly due to the help of nearby hearing offices. To help manage its backlog and reduce the wait time, the Portland, Maine hearing office transfers some of its work to nearby hearing offices. Such transfers are a simple matter now that the disability claim files are all electronic.
Some of the "folder assembly" work is being done elsewhere. Also, claims that will be scheduled for video hearings in Bangor or Augusta are being transferred to nearby hearing offices. The Augusta claims are going to the Manchester, New Hampshire hearing office, and the Bangor area claims are being transferred to the new ODAR in Lawrence, Massachusetts. If you live nearer to Bangor or Augusta than Portland, there is a distinct possibility that your video hearing will be with a judge outside of Maine.
Processing time runs from the date of the hearing request (which is the appeal of a Reconsideration denial) to the day a decision is issued. The 377 days is an average. Some disability claims are resolved more quickly, but a Social Security disability claim that requires a hearing and a lengthy written decision may take longer.