Our firm's Social Security clients are served mostly by three hearing offices: White Plains (NY), Albany (NY), and Newark (NJ). According to the NOSSCR Social Security Forum, December 2009, the average processing time for the White Plains office is 430 days (63rd out of 143 nationwide), Albany is 466 days (88/143) and Newark is 488 days (100/143).
In the last year and a half all of these offices have added new judges. When that happened I was hopeful it would mean a shortened wait for hearings. Thus far that has not proven to be the case, except for limited examples. But what I find totally inexplicable is the shuffling of cases between the offices.
Many of our Albany cases have been transferred to Newark for hearing. Not only does that mean the claimants cannot get an in-person hearing (unless they wish to wait even longer), but they are being transferred to an office that has a longer processing time! WHY? Who does it help?
The Albany claimants are sent to a slower office; the Newark office now has even more files; and the Newark hearings for Albany claimants delay the local New Jersey claimants. We see the same thing happening in White Plains, where they are also handling hearings from Albany as well as other hearing offices.
The same number of judges are holding roughly the same number of hearings, the local claimants are obviously waiting longer than they would have were there no file transfers, and the cases transferred do not get the benefit of in-person hearings. Not only that, but when we called Newark recently to inquire about the status of a transferred case the person on the other end told us, "this is a transferred case. Those are delayed." WHY? Who does it help?
I will be sending a letter to the Regional Chief Judge regarding this. There may be some grand plan at work here, but as far as I can see, all it can do is cook the numbers. Even then, who does it help?
Whatever reason they can possibly give us, it does not help claimants waiting for hearings get them any sooner, which is the ostensible goal.