How Long The Disability Process Takes
The process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) can be complex. It is common for applicants to ask, how long does it take to get approved for disability?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to your question due to the factors that can impact the timeline of your claim being reviewed before approval.
The reality is that it might take a person one month to be approved if meeting the requirements of a dire condition or situation, another person a few months to several months to be approved for a standard case, or another person might take 1-3 years if the case is complicated and goes through the review process.
The major factors that impact how long it takes to receive approval include:
- Initial disability claim outcome
- Medical records complications
- Going through the disability appeal process
Continue to read on for more information on how these factors impact your timeline of being approved for disability benefits. Need immediate assistance with your claim? Our experts are ready to help you. Contact us today for help!
The Initial Application to The Appeals Process
According to the SSA, a standard case will generally take about 3 to 5 months for the initial disability decision. Despite this, the amount of time it takes to get the initial decision can vary considerably because the exact time depends on how long it takes to get your medical records and any other evidence needed to make a decision.
The medical records necessary to process your claim will impact how quickly your application is approved or denied. That’s why it is important to submit all necessary medical records at the beginning to avoid delays. If not enough medical evidence is presented in your records, the SSA may request more records or require you to meet with a Social Security doctor for a follow-up consultation.
Depending on how long it takes to send in the additional records or how soon you can get an appointment will affect the time length of the process. Even then, a significant amount of applicants are denied because the SSA did not find that their medical condition was severe enough to prevent them from working.
In the case that you are denied benefits, the SSA will send you a letter explaining their decision. If you do not agree, you can appeal the decision. There are four levels of appeal and each takes a different amount of time to deliver a decision. The levels of appeal are:
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing
- Appeals Council Review
- Federal Court Review
If you disagree with any determination, you may appeal the decision by submitting the required forms within 60 days of the date you receive the written notice of the determination. At this stage, we recommend that you work with a disability attorney to represent you and help prepare your appeal.
Request for Reconsideration
In this phase, someone who did not take part in the first decision will complete a review of your claim by looking at all the information submitted when the decision was made and any new evidence presented.
According to the SSA annual data, the disability reconsideration average processing time is approximately three months from the date you filed your request. Then, if the reconsideration decision is unfavorable, you may ask for a hearing.
How Long Will You Wait To Get a Hearing?
Generally, applicants must wait between one to two years to get a hearing date. About 75 days before the hearing, the SSA will provide you with a notice of the hearing date, location, and issues to be discussed.
At the hearing, the ALJ will review your case, ask you questions, ask medical experts questions, and gather input from any witnesses you bring to the hearing. You or your representative may also ask questions to any witness and present new evidence if allowed by the ALJ.
After the hearing, the judge will make a decision based on all the information in your case and any new information. On average, the SSA will send you a letter with the judge’s decision within one to three months. If you disagree with the hearing decision, you can ask for a review from the Social Security Appeals Council.
Need support from a disability representative? Let one of our representatives review your case!
Receiving A Decision From The Appeals Council
The Appeals Council will only review a case based on new additional evidence related to the period on or before the hearing decision, and if there is a reasonable probability the evidence would change the outcome of the decision.
The Appeals Council can deny or dismiss your request for review if they believe the hearing decision was correct. They also have the authority to directly decide on your case or return it to an ALJ for further review, which could include another hearing.
If the Appeals Council returns your case to an administrative law judge or reviews your case and decides itself, the SSA will send you a letter and a copy of the decision.
It takes about 18 to 24 months to receive a decision from the Appeals Council with an average of about 12 months. The length of time to receive a decision depends on the high number of cases to review, how many decision-makers are available, the amount of evidence, and the difficulty of the cases.
If the Appeals Council’s decision is not favorable or if they decided not to review your case, you can file a lawsuit in a federal district court. The Court will then review the decision and evidence on-file.
The Court can send the case back to the ALJ to hold a new hearing and issue a new decision, direct SSA to award benefits, or dismiss the case. The length of time it takes them to decide an appeal is about eight months from the date it was filed.
Additional Factors In The Disability Approval Process
Other factors that affect how long it takes to get approved for disability are if your case is pulled for quality assurance review and if your conditions qualify you for expedited approval.
Furthermore, the SSA will speed up the approval process in some critical cases. The following are examples of when a case can be expedited if an applicant meets these conditions:
- Suffers from a terminal illness
- Condition qualifies for a Compassionate Allowance
- Served in the military
- The applicant is in dire need of assistance
- The applicant is a threat to personal or public safety
Patients who have a terminal condition can have their claim expedited through the Terminal Illness Program (TERI) in which cases are usually processed in less than a month.
The Compassionate Allowance program allows for benefits to be decided in a few weeks for the most seriously disabled applicants. If your condition is on the Compassionate Allowance List (CAL), you will be fast-tracked for approval.
Get Approved Faster With A Disability Representative
So, how long does it take to get approved for disability? It can take years to get a final decision on your application for Social Security disability benefits. However, you may be able to reduce some of the delays by using a representative such as Crest SSD in the initial application process to help you complete all the required paperwork correctly.
In addition to assisting you with the application, we can help you respond quickly to any Social Security requests and obtain any medical records to submit early in the process. To speak to an experienced disability representative about your claim, contact us today at the number above or complete this form for a free consultation. We are here to help!