The rented space, where applicants seek approval from an administrative law judge to receive disability benefits, has had recurrent maintenance issues – including mold – the property owner has failed to address, said Frank Viera, Social Security deputy regional communications director in Atlanta.
In addition, the move follows recent federal guidance on the agency’s better use of space, Viera said.
Staff will be shifted to the Social Security field office on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway and elsewhere, while in-person hearings will move back to a two-hearing room site downtown at 801 Broad St., the SunTrust Bank building.
The smaller space downtown will have only a single full-time judge stationed there, while a half-dozen others working out of the Claussen office are being assigned elsewhere .
The office will “schedule as many hearings as we can to deal with the needs of the community,” Viera said.
According to Social Security data, 2,507 people have sought a disability hearing from the Augusta area over the past year, while 4,115 cases have been disposed of, with an average processing time of 378 days.
A 2012 backlog of 4,351 cases is down to 2,743 this year.
Andy Magruder, a social security attorney with an office in the same Claussen Road complex, said he didn’t expect the move back to the SunTrust building, where hearings previously were held, would prolong the process for his clients.
Viera said the moves would be complete by early 2014.