Disability applicants who have already gone through the initial application and reconsideration phase of a Social Security disability (or SSI) case need to request an appeal hearing to get a judge to hear their case. These applicants have already put a lot of months into the disability process, and unfortunately the time spent waiting for a hearing is usually considerable, and no doubt financially rocky as well.
What is the average wait time for a disability hearing? Expect to wait at least six months to a year. But in reaity, the wait varies, sometimes greatly, depending on where you live. For example, one year there was a great degree of variance in the wait time for a hearing between different hearing offices within the state of North Carolina. The hearing office in Raleigh, NC had a wait time of 18-24 months, while the hearing office in Charlotte, NC had a wait time of about 13-14 months.
How could there be such a difference when the Social Security disability and SSI programs are federal and standardized (meaning that the system is "supposed" to operate the same no matter where you live in America)? That's a very good question. And to get the answer to such a question, you'd probably have to ask the individual clerks and ALJs (administrative law judges) who work at different hearing offices to get their rationales as to what might account for the difference.
Speculation: while it is true that some hearing offices have to deal with greater numbers of cases, another part of the answer is probably that some hearings offices are simply better organized and more efficient, while other hearings offices are less organized and less efficient. Unfortunately, a disability applicant will have no choice as to which hearings office will be assigned their case.
To find out how long a hearing will probably take in your area, you might consider contacting a claims rep at the Social Security office where you originally filed your claim. However, since SSA claims rep have very little to do with an SSDI or SSI case after it's been sent to the hearing office, you probably should contact a Social Security disability lawyer in your area to glean information about how long it may take to get a hearing date scheduled where you live. Lawyers will be familiar with how "gummed up" the system is in the areas in which they operate (after all, they have a vested interest in such issues).
Can you speed up how long it takes to get a disability hearing date, despite thelengthy "average" wait times? Possibly. Learn more about how to speed up a request for a SSDI or SSI disability hearing.