U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick said Thursday she would investigate why the federal government didn't send more judges to expedite thousands of backlogged disability cases in the Charlotte area.
The Observer reported earlier this week that the government assigned one new administrative law judge to Charlotte's Disability Adjudication and Hearing Office even though sick workers in the region wait longer for help than almost anyone else in the nation. Meanwhile, cities with significantly shorter wait times were assigned three or more new judges.
In response to the article, Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, sent a letter to Social Security Administration asking how officials justify sending more disability judges to other cities.
The agency has said it assigned 189 new judges this year based on a needs assessment of more than 140 hearing offices. Officials also noted that they transferred a veteran to the Charlotte office earlier this year.
No one disputes the system is plagued with problems. Administrators acknowledge that some applicants for Social Security Disability benefits wait so long for help that they go bankrupt, become homeless or even die.
There are nearly 9,000 pending cases at the Charlotte hearing office.
The federal government deducts taxes from nearly all workers' paychecks for insurance in case they become too sick to work.
The average recipient gets about $1,000 a month.
But most who apply are turned down. Those who appeal can request a hearing before an administrative law judge. That's when delays grow longest.
In Charlotte, workers wait an average 643 days for a hearing. The national average is 508 days.