Many social security disability applicants as well as their disability attorneys complain about the time it takes to get in front of Social Security Judge (ALJ).  The NY Times reported today that in some instances it can take up to three years to get such a hearing.  The problem being is that it takes so long now to get a hearing that many social security disability applicants lose their home, go bankrupt, or die.  There is a current backlog of 755,000 cases compared to 311,000 cases in 2000.  Social Security has plans to hire at least 150 new ALJs nationally to whittle down this backlog.  However, there is a current battle between the president and Congress in getting the money appropriated.  Meanwhile, the current average wait for hearing is 500 days compared to the 258 days in 2000.
Interestingly, the article points out that most applicants give up on their claim after the initial application and/or reconsideration claim.  Of the 2.5 million applicants who apply every year only 575,000 request a hearing in front of an ALJ.  This is the stage where most disability applicants are approved, and in fact about 2/3rds of claims are approved at this level.  Social Security Commissioner Astrue attributes the backlog to litigation regarding hiring freezes on ALJs and the baby boomer generation.