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If you’re hoping to get a hearing before a federal judge in Ohio so you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you have to be patient.

Waits in Ohio are longer than they are in any other state.

That’s according to a report released today by Allsup, a for-profit company that helps Americans file for and receive disability benefits.

Across the United States, the average wait for a disability hearing is 141/2 months, according to the report. In Delaware, the state with the shortest backlog, it’s fewer than 10 months. In Ohio, it’s more than 19.

Allsup said it used the most current data it could obtain from the Social Security Administration — all from 2010.

“We want people to know about the inequities,” Dan Allsup, communications director for the Illinois company, said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “If I have a disability, it should not depend on where I live to determine how long it’s going to take me to get my benefits.”

Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue criticized the data for being months old. He also said it could be misleading because many Ohio cases are sent to judges in other states to be handled more quickly.

“We’re still handling a lot of northwest Ohio out of the Boston region,” Astrue said by phone Monday evening. “We’ve been making progress in Ohio.”

The administration, he said, plans to do even more by opening two new offices — in Akron and Toledo — by the end of the year.

That will increase the number of hearing offices in Ohio from four to six.

Astrue also pointed out that the wait in Ohio and elsewhere is dropping, something Allsup praised the Social Security Administration for in its report.

“We applaud Social Security,” Allsup said, “because they have made some big improvements in recent months.”

Twenty-four of the 46 states that have hearing offices reduced their wait times in 2009 compared to 2008, according to the report. That dropped the average wait nationally for a hearing decision from a high of 514 days in September 2008 to 442, the Social Security Administration announced last month.

Ohio’s wait dropped, too, from 758 in September 2008 to 591 days, the Allsup report says. But it’s still the longest in the country.

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Article courtesy cleveland.com