BUFFALO, NY – With May 2008 statistics in, showing 723 new Social Security cases filed in the Buffalo-area office last month alone, the highest one month total this year, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) is calling for swift action on the promised hiring of judges and staff at local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices. The average age of pending cases is 364 days and average processing time is 665 days, meaning most people wait close to a year just to have their case heard and two years for a final decision on their claim. The Buffalo area office, which has only 12 Administrative Law Judges, currently has 5,377 cases that have been pending for over one year.
“Local judges and Social Security staff are working hard but until additional personnel are on the job they can’t put a dent in these numbers,” said Congressman Higgins. “We need immediate action to get the Western New York offices staffed at a level that provides local residents with the service they deserve from our government. Making people wait two years for an answer is unreasonable and unfair.”
Outraged by the numbers included in the March 2008 SSA hearing office report, Higgins wrote a letter to Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue insisting on more Administrative Law Judges in the Buffalo-area hearing office. The Buffalo-area office service area includes: Erie, Chautauqua, Niagara, Genesee, Ontario, Monroe, and Cattaraugus counties. According to the SSA, the additional judges would be hired in the Rochester satellite office, where 40% of the backlog originates. Two weeks ago the SSA confirmed they will hire two additional judges, as well as additional personnel, for the Western New York region.
“The Social Security Administration can and must do better,” said Higgins, who plans to meet with SSA leaders to stress the urgent need for swift hiring in Western New York offices. “More of the same is unacceptable.”