COLUMBIA — The Social Security Administration officially opened a hearing office on Buttonwood Drive on Tuesday to help reduce a backlog of disability appeals, some on the books for more than a year.
The office has already added 43 new staff positions, as well as eight administrative judges, to handle medical and non-medical appeals from Social Security clients.
The local office will serve Columbia, Jefferson City, Rolla, Moberly, Sedalia and Union.
Typically, cases are filed in one of the country’s 1,300 local field offices. Once a case is filed, there has been a 18- to 20-month waiting period before a hearing.
Adding the Columbia office will cut the waiting time, said Jewell Colbert, acting regional communications director for the Kansas City office.
“There was a definite need in this locality,” Chief Administrative Law Judge Debra Bice said during the opening on Tuesday. “Receipts in this region continue to grow, and we needed more resources to handle the public here."
The central Missouri office became the fifth in the state. There are two in the St. Louis area, one in Kansas City and one in Springfield.
Mayor Bob McDavid also addressed the benefit to Columbia.
“Residents no longer have to travel to get their needs met," he said.
The new office at 3402 Buttonwood Drive is a block from the Social Security field office. It has eight hearing rooms, a conference room and a video conference room for long-distance meetings. A medical examiner in Chicago, for example, can be a witness in a Columbia case.
Cases can be filed online or by calling 800-772-1213.