Most Social Security Disability (SSD) benefit applicants will face lengthy wait times – not only when trying to schedule their hearing but also while waiting to receive a decision regarding their application for benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), average hearing wait times and processing times for Florida SSA offices are as follows:

Office Hearing (months) Disposition (days)
Fort Myers 22 672
Fort Lauderdale 16 548
Jacksonville 16.5 552
Miami 19 625
Orlando 15 471
St. Petersburg 16 501
Tallahassee 16 550
Tampa 15 485

Based on these average times, applicants could end up waiting close to two years before even becoming able to schedule an SSD hearing – much less receive answers about whether they were approved for benefits.

However, there are four ways in which a decision may be expedited in a SSD benefits hearing case:

  1. Write a financial dire need letter.

    If you are facing a situation in which you could experience extreme financial hardship or ruin while waiting on the SSA’s decision, you may consider writing a financial “dire need” letter to the SSA. The letter could request either an expedited hearing or an on-the-record (OTR) review of your case. You would need to include detailed documentation to support the claim of dire financial need.

  2. Request an on-the-record review.

    As long as you have sufficient medical evidence to prove you have a qualifying disability, you may be able to forgo the hearing wait time by requesting an administrative law judge (ALJ) to review your file and make an on-the-record ruling prior to your hearing. A positive ruling would make the hearing no longer necessary. This could cut your wait time by months or even a year.

  3. Ask for an attorney adjudicator decision.

    The SSA has a program which gives senior attorney adjudicators the authority to issue an OTR decision for SSD benefits. The program was established to help lighten the load and conserve ALJ resources for the more involved, complex cases that may require a hearing. As with an OTR decision from an ALJ, an attorney adjudicator decision can allow you to bypass the hearing process and expedite a decision on your SSD benefits claim.

  4. Be sufficiently prepared for your hearing.

    If you are prepared for your hearing, you can avoid any unnecessary delays. To be properly prepared, you should:

    • Avoid submitting duplicative evidence – Although you want your application to be complete, submitting duplicative materials will only cause delays as office staff will have to take more time sorting out your application.
    • Make sure your evidence is submitted more than 10 working days ahead of your scheduled hearing date – Ideally, submissions should be around 30 pages or less (with a cover letter) so office staff and the ALJ can have time to review the documentation you provided.
    • Ensure your most recent records are on file and there is no significant gap in documentation – Once your case is transferred to the hearing office, no additional records will be gathered on your behalf. So, you need to gather all of the interim records so the ALJ can have up-to-date information on which to base his or her decision. This can also be extremely beneficial in cases where an OTR review is initiated by the SSA or requested by you.
    • Review your case file thoroughly with your attorney – Conducting a review will help you prepare for any questions which may arise during your hearing as well give you the tools you need to argue your case.

For more information, check out the SSA’s “Best Practices for Claimants’ Representatives” guide or contact an experienced Florida SSD benefits attorney.


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