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New office means shorter wait for Georgia disability appeals

People near Augusta, Georgia, who are hoping to appeal their Social Security disability benefits may be facing a shorter waiting period starting in October, after a new office opens in Augusta.

Those who have been denied benefits twice have the option to appeal, in person, a third time. The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review currently hears these cases. Cases can take anywhere from six months to a year to be heard, and everyone who deals with Social Security appeals hopes the new hearing office will cut down on that waiting period.

The new hearing office is expected to open in Augusta toward the end of September. Until then, cases will be heard as they have been previously -- with a judge from out of town or video conference.

Those who are sick or disabled and wish to appeal their denied claim can show their need in person, which is important when it comes to a person's livelihood. Video conferencing is often impersonal and can be a difficult way to communicate.

It is unknown where the 10 permanent judges and 50 clerks and staff members will be hired from. Previously, judges came from as far away as California and West Virginia to help clear out backlog cases.

Other efforts have been made to make the appeals process more efficient, such as using bar codes and an online appeals system. Local attorneys and other professionals who work with Social Security claims cases are excited about the latest step in tackling the enormous backlog of Social Security appeals.

The new office will be located off Interstate 20 and serve Augusta and Milledgeville in Georgia as well as a few cities in South Carolina.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle, "New hearing office expected to shorten wait time for Social Security and disability appeals," Kyle Martin, Sept. 17, 2011

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