In a December 30 post, we noted that we had recently sent a letter to Glenn E. Sklar, Deputy Commissioner Disability Adjudication and Review of the Social Security Administrationto express our concern about increasing scheduling problems for Social Security disability appeals in the Norfolk Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), where claimants are being subjected to ever-increasing wait times for hearings to be scheduled. We told Mr. Sklar the following:
“During the last year, Norfolk judges have received assignments ranging from permanent caseload assignments doing video hearings in Charlotte Hall, Maryland for the Washington DC ODAR and in Salisbury Maryland for the Delaware ODAR. Now one of Norfolk’s four hearing rooms has been permanently reserved for Norfolk ODAR judges to conduct video hearings for the Baltimore ODAR. Moreover, Norfolk has two retiring judges, one of whom had earlier stopped conducting hearings pending his leaving.”
Deputy Chief Administrative Law Judge John R. Allen responded to us in a January 23, 2015 letter. He told us this:
“We are pleased that you have found the Norfolk HO to be one of the most efficiently run in itsregion. Likewise, we would like you to know that we recently added another AdministrativeLaw Judge (ALJ) to the Norfolk HO, giving it a full complement of seven ALJs.Budget constraints and an increasing number of requests for hearings have caused our workloadsand waiting times for hearings to go up nationwide, not just in Norfolk, over the past few years.As of December 2014, the average wait time for a hearing in Norfolk was 13 months. Despiteour challenges, we do not anticipate this will change substantially over the next few months.You noted that the Norfolk HO now holds hearings for the Salisbury and Charlotte Hall,Maryland field offices in addition to Virginia offices. This is to give the Norfolk HO anequitable share of work after losing the Lewistown and Towanda service areas. You alsoindicated the Norfolk office has permanently reserved a hearing room for video hearingsconducted by the Baltimore office. While Baltimore cases are currently being held there, this isnot a permanent arrangement.
I hope this information is helpful and allays your concerns about service to your claimants.Please be assured that we continually work to provide the best service we can, given theresources we have.”
We want to thank ALJ Allen for this informative response to our inquiry. As you can see from his comments, hearing delays are dictated by budget resources, which are in turn provided by Congress in its appropriations.
Congress is presently considering SSA’s proposed funding for the coming year. If you have not expressed your concerns to your congressmen about the budget cutting that continues to worsen the Social Security Administration’s ability to provide needed services, we again ask that you do so now.