Information About Social Security's Hearings and Appeals Process

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The Social Security Administration's (SSA) administrative appeals operation is one of the largest administrative judicial systems in the world. SSA issues more than half a million hearing and appeal dispositions each year. Under the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO), administrative law judges (ALJ) conduct hearings and issue decisions. Within the Office of Analytics, Review, and Oversight (OARO), the Appeals Council considers appeals from hearing decisions and acts as the final level of administrative review for the agency.

Choose below to obtain detailed information about the:

Chart Our Progress

Please see below for the status of our major workloads over the past several years.

Plan for Compassionate And REsponsive Service (CARES)

Eliminating the hearings backlog and reducing the wait time to 270 days remains one of our agency’s most critical priorities. We continue to make sustained progress towards this goal. Over the last three years, Congress has provided $290 million in special funding dedicated to reduce the hearings backlog. Through this extraordinary support, we accelerated our plan to eliminate the hearings backlog and reduce the average wait time to 270 days by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2021, one year earlier than projected in previous plans. Our progress stems from implementing improvements to the hearings business process, modernizing our information technology (IT) infrastructure, implementing important policy changes, and rallying our workforce to improve our ability to serve the public.

The 2018-2019 CARES Plan Update provides the latest information on continuing activities designed to reduce wait times and eliminate the hearings backlog. Since 2016, we hired close to 600 administrative law judges (ALJ), and in FY 2018, we hired over 500 decision writers and over 170 other support staff in the hearings operation.

We have reduced the number of pending hearing requests each consecutive month since January 2017. In early March 2018, hearings pending dropped below 1 million for the first time since October 2014. As of March 2019, approximately 720,000 people were waiting for a hearing decision.

The CARES Plan remains a living document and will be modified and updated as appropriate.

View the 2018-2019 CARES Update in PDF

View the 2017 Updated CARES and Anomaly Plan in PDF

View the 2016 CARES Plan in PDF