The Social Security Administration (SSA) has just opened a fifth National Hearing Center (NHC) in St. Louis, Missouri. This is big news for SSA and for the millions of people with disabilities hoping for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits. The new hearing center is expected to relieve severe backlogs of disability claims in areas that have some of the worst wait times for hearings with administrative law judges.
According to the latest SSA report on average wait times for hearings at the 144 hearing offices across the country, St. Louis takes 14 months to schedule disability hearings. The new NHC office will also take on backlogged cases from hearing offices in Cleveland, Ohio (current wait time: 19 months) and Minneapolis, Minnesota (current wait time: 17 months.)
In an SSA press release, SSA Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said, “The St. Louis NHC will help us reduce the backlog of disability cases in those areas of the country where citizens with disabilities are currently waiting far too long for a hearing decision. For the City of St. Louis and the State of Missouri, these facilities will bring new permanent federal jobs.”
That’s the other big news about the new NHC office –200 more federal jobs for the St. Louis area.
The new facility was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, took 10 months to complete, and is the largest of five national hearing centers. The others are located in Albuquerque, Baltimore, Fall Church, Virginia and Chicago.
“The new Social Security facilities in St. Louis are prime examples of Recovery Act dollars at work…The result will be better service for disabled Americans and increased job opportunities for residents of the St. Louis area,” said Commissioner Astrue.
We at Freedom Disability are hopeful that this new national hearing center will make a significant difference in the hearings backlog. We would like nothing better than to get quicker decisions for our claimants.