How Long is the Social Security Disability Process?

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Dec 1, 2016 | Sara Khaki

Your Average Wait Time At Each Level of Your Case 

People often ask us how long the Social Security Disability process takes, and they are often surprised by the answer.  From start to finish, the whole process can potentially take over two years; however, we’ve had some clients approved in four months and others in two years.   Those with extremely dire ailments are usually approved a lot sooner than those whose disability requires a lot more review of medical diagnosis and treatments.  Detailed below are the different stages of the application process and the potential length of time you may have to wait for a decision at that level.  If you are approved, you won’t have to go any further in the process.  If you are denied, you or your attorney will appeal the decision at the next level.

Applying for Social Security Benefits

Whether applying for SSDI or SSI, the actual completion of the application may only take a couple of hours. The applications require information regarding your medical history, education, former employment, and financial situation. An SSI application requires an in-person or phone interview, whereas a SSDI application can be filed online.

The Initial Review

Once you submit your application for disability, your wait for a decision may take several months. Some applicants qualify for expedited review under the compassionate allowances program. Majority of individuals must undergo additional reviews with the SSA examining the effects of their medical condition on their everyday abilities.

How Long is the Disability Application Wait?

On average, compassionate allowance applicants receive a decision within a month to two months. The average wait for most applicants ranges from three to six months. Insufficient documents such as medical evidence may cause a delay in a response. During this process, Social Security may also request the applicants to complete additional questionnaires and attend consultative examinations with a doctor social security contracts with. These additional processes can add weeks to the wait time.

Reconsideration Review

If you’re denied benefits at the initial level, you may request a reconsideration of your claim. The average wait at this stage is also three to six months. The average varies based on whether your local office is backlogged. When you request a reconsideration of your claim, you may submit additional medical evidence which may increase your chances of approval. However, submission of additional evidence lengthens your wait time.

Hearing Level

If you are denied at the initial and reconsideration review level, you may file an appeal to continue your claim and to be heard before an administrative law judge. The wait time to have your claim heard before a judge is approximately an average of 18 months. This used to be 12 months in Atlanta and these days some people may even wait 24 months

A large majority of cases usually end up going before judge at the hearing level.  Sometimes, cases are denied at this level, and additional appeals can be filed. All of this takes time.  What’s important to remember is that continuing treatment is crucial during such a long process, not only for your health but to provide the medical evidence needed to support your claim.  If you have an attorney, make sure to stay in constant communication with their office and provide all the documentation they request to help move your claim along.

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