After a person applies for either social Security Disability, or Supplemental Security income, or both, and the initial claim is denied by the Social Security Administration, a person has a right to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The person has sixty days to file the appeal, requesting that hearing. Hearings for social security disability cases in southwest Alabama and Northwest Florida are handled by the Mobile, Alabama Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). The Mobile, Alabama ODAR hearing office offers individuals the option to either have a video hearing, or to have a live, in-person hearing. I believe that people have a much greater chance of success with an in-person hearing, because it is more difficult to convey pain, depression and anxiety over a video. I recommend that our clients appear in person whenever possible.
The Mobile, Alabama hearing office is staffed with 14 judges. Even though that is a lot of judges, there are a lot of cases for those judges to hear. The average wait time of the Mobile, Alabama ODAR is 13 months. That is, it takes about one year, and one month, between the time the hearing is requested and the time the hearing is held. Since that is a very long wait, it is important to make the very best use of the hearing time. The Birmingham, Alabama ODAR, by comparison, has more judges, 19, has an even larger backlog of cases, and the Birmingham ODAR has an average wait time of 14 months. Because of the long delay our clients face, our office believes that it is very important for the case to be well prepared for presentation; our team works very hard to make sure that by the time of the hearing the evidence available has been located and submitted to ODAR. The files are in an electronic format- that is, all documents must be scanned and electronically submitted to become a part of the evidence considered by the judge.
After the hearing, several things may occur. The judge may decide that additional consultative examinations are needed. In that event, the Social Security Administration pays for any additional medical and/or psychological examinations that are requested by the judge. When those reports come in, the judge can arrange for another hearing, or make a decision based upon the additional medical evidence. On average, at the Mobile hearing office, the time between the request for hearing and the time of the final decision is 449 days. That is, the average processing time is about 15 months. It is generally taking about two months after the hearing, on average, to get the judge’s final decision. Since that time is only the average, some cases are faster, but some cases are slower.
The better prepared the case, the better the chance that no additional development after the hearing will be necessary, thus making the processing time faster. At our office, we are all very aware of the importance of being prepared. We recognize that our clients depend upon us to anticipate the specific evidence a judge will want to see in a case, and we take steps to make sure the additional evidence is obtained, to better speed up the process.