Although the disability determination process can take a long time, many applicants don’t have any choice but to stick it out and fight for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). After all, these benefits can mean the difference between just scraping by each month and being able to cover the rent and pay other bills.
Applying for Social Security Benefits
SSI applications require a personal interview, while an SSDI application can be filed online or at the local office. Either way, it can take quite awhile to fill out the application, especially if you need hunt down the required information, which includes the details of your medical history, education, former employment, and financial situation.
The First Social Security Review
Once you submit your application for disability, your wait for a decision may take weeks or months. Some applicants qualify for expedited review under the compassionate allowances (CAL) program. Others must undergo additional reviews, with the SSA examining more closely the affects of their medical condition on their everyday abilities.
On average, CAL applicants receive a decision within four weeks. The typical wait for other applicants ranges from three to six months, but there are things lengthen the wait, like insufficient medical evidence, for example.
Many applicants must fill out additional questionnaires. Some must attend consultative exams with contracted physician. Each of these steps can add weeks to the wait for a decision at the first review stage. It may take a long time to initially hear if you qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
If you’re denied benefits, you may request a second review or reconsideration of your claim. The average wait at this stage is four to six weeks. It can take longer though, especially if you live in an area where the disability determination services (DDS) office is backlogged.
Additionally, most applicants submit new evidence when they request a reconsideration. This increases your chances of approval but also stretches out your wait for a decision to somewhere around 10 to 12 weeks on average.
Appeal Hearings to Win Your Social Security Claim
Applicants that are denied at the first review and reconsideration stages must file an appeal if they wish to continue to try for benefits. Appeal hearings are held by administrative law judges and the dockets of most judges are quite backlogged as well. Most people that must appeal wait 12 to 26 months before their appeal hearing takes place, but once the hearing is over, you’ll have a final decision on your claim.
Getting Help with Your Social Security Claim
The disability application and review processes vary significantly from one case to the next. Some applicants receive a decision in weeks, while others wait months or even years.
A Social Security disability attorney or advocate can help you understand the steps your application is likely to go through and help you apply for benefits.. A Social Security disability advocate or attorney can also potentially shorten your wait by strengthening your claim or making a stronger argument for your eligibility. If you’re initially denied benefits, a lawyer can increase your chances of approval during an appeal and represent you at the appeal hearing as well.