Many Social Security Disability claimants have heard that the SSA immediately denies all first time Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications. Other claimants have heard that it could take two years to get SSDI. It is no wonder that many SSDI claimants are confused about the disability process and how long they will have to wait for their first SSDI payment.
According to the Fiscal Times, there has been a rapidly increasing number of disability applicants. Last year alone it is estimated there were 3 million disability applicants. Thomas Foley, deputy director of the World Institute on Disability in California, described the crisis facing many disabled people as, “A perfect storm of the baby boom bubble, the economic downturn and the housing market collapse.”
What does this mean for you? Unless you have a condition that automatically meets a listing on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Medical Impairments or Blue Book (which is a list maintained by the SSA of conditions that they believe are automatically disabling). Your Social Security Disability Insurance application may be placed in a long line with hundreds of thousands of applications that have to be reviewed by a limited number of SSA disability examiners.
What is the Social Security disability process and why does it take so long?
SSDI applicants can file for disability either online, on the phone or in person at a local Social Security Administration office. The SSA office will review the SSDI application and make sure the claimant meets all of the non-medical requirements. This will include reviewing the whether a claimant is considered “insured” and whether they have worked and paid enough taxes to qualify for SSDI.
If the claimant is not insured, they will be denied SSDI benefits, regardless of the severity of their condition. The SSA will not pull any medical records and review their mental or physical health condition is they do not meet the non-medical requirements.
If the SSDI claimant has met the non-medical requirements, their SSDI application is sent to the appropriate Disability Determinations Services Offices (DDS) for review. It can take 90 to 120 days for the Disability Determinations Services Office to review the claim and make a disability determination. Up to 70% of initial disability applications are denied.
Reconsideration Appeal Process for SSDI
Reconsideration is the first step in the disability appeals process for the Social Security Disability Insurance denial and must be made within 60 days from the date of the initial application denial letter.
Do claimants win benefits at reconsideration? Yes, approximately 20% win SSDI benefits at this level. Unfortunately, reconsideration is simply a second review of the claimants SSDI application by another examiner in the DDS office who was not involved in the first SSDI disability evaluation.
The second DDS examiner will use the same criteria to evaluate the SSDI claim and generally will have the same medical documentation, unless the claimant has proactively acquired more information and sent it to the SSA.
Up to 80% of reconsiderations will be denied, and the SSA will notify the claimant of their denial decision within 30 to 90 days.
Administrative Hearing for SSDI
What if you are denied for SSDI at reconsideration? Claimants have 60 days to request an appeal for an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Most claimants who have not hired a SSDI disability lawyer will choose to do so at this step.
Do you have to have a SSDI disability lawyer for the SSDI disability hearing? No, but unless you fully understand how the SSA determines you are disabled and you are ready to argue why you have little residual functional capacity to work jobs which are suggested by a vocational expert at your court hearing, it is a good idea to consult with a disability attorney.
Most of the waiting in the appeals process happens at the administrative hearing level.
If the disability claimant requests a hearing the Social Security Disability claim is sent to the appropriate Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) for the region.
Administrative hearing case loads can number in the hundreds and wait times vary widely by district. Some courts may have 5 to 10 Administrative Law Judges who are scheduled to perform the SSDI administrative hearings. It is not unusual for SSDI disability claimants to wait 12-14 months for a Social Security Administrative Hearing to be held.
What if I win at the Reconsideration or Administrative Hearing Level?
What if you are approved at either the reconsideration or the hearing level? How long do you have to wait to receive your SSDI benefits? Estimates can vary widely. The SSA estimates a 30 to 90 day waiting period to receive SSDI benefits, but they will send out a letter detailing the estimated payment amount and date of payment. Keep in mind, in many parts of the country the wait could be much longer.
When we are asked how long it could take to get SSDI benefits we say 60 days to 2 years. Claimants who immediately meet a listing or who have a condition that allows their SSDI benefits to be expedited will receive their SSDI benefits fairly quickly. If a claimant has to appeal their SSDI denial all the way to an Administrative Law Judge the wait could be as long as two years.
Hiring a SSDI Lawyer
There is good news; the SSA has implemented some good programs to identify claims that should be immediately approved. Talk to your disability lawyer about whether or not your condition makes you eligible for an expedited SSDI payment. The bad news is there are more people applying for disability than have ever applied before.
If you would like a disability attorney to review your Social Security Disability Insurance claim you can fill out the FREE evaluation form and a disability advocate will call you to review your claim or you can call our office at 1-800-641-3759 to talk to someone now.