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When will I get my disability benefits?

By far the most common question on our disability forum is, “When will I get my disability payment?” The problem with this question is it presupposes that you will, in fact, actually be approved, and this notion is a general misunderstanding of the SSDI and SSI process.

Most claimants are not approved for disability benefits

Most SSI and SSDI claimants seem to think that they are entitled to disability benefits. Some claimants think that disability is awarded quickly and easily even for short-term disabilities, and they simply have to complete the application and sit back and wait for the cash assistance to be mailed.

Unfortunately, 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 increasing numbers of disability applicants as a result of a, “perfect storm of the baby boom bubble, the economic downturn and the housing market collapse."

What does this mean for you? This means that even if you have a great case, enough work credits for SSDI and meet all the nonmedical requirements for the SSDI program it could take weeks or months for the SSA to process your claim. Unfortunately, your claim, unless it is fast tracked as a compassionate allowance case, a TERI (terminal illness case) or through the wounded warriors program, can take months to process.

Most common misconceptions about disability benefits

As mentioned above, the question, “When will I get my disability payment?” is really the wrong question. Actually, what claimants should be asking is, “Do I qualify for disability benefits?” and if so, “How long will it take to process the payments?”

Millions of SSI and SSDI applications are submitted each year, but that does not mean they will all be paid. Even claimants who have “paid into the system all my life” and feel they are entitled to SSDI benefits have a misconception of the goal of the SSDI program. SSDI is much more like “insurance” and less like a guaranteed payment such as SSA retirement.

The first step to winning SSDI or SSI is for theclaimant to meet all of the non-medical requirements. This will include reviewing whether a claimant is considered “insured” and whether they have worked and paid enough taxes to qualify for SSDI or if they are applying for SSI, proving that their income and resource level is low enough to qualify.

Claimants must also have a severe health condition and it must be expected to last 12 continuous months. Many disability applicants do not realize that if they fail to meet the basic nonmedical criteria of either SSI or SSDI they will never be approved, regardless of the severity of their mental or physical health condition.

Approval for disability benefits

So to answer the question above, if you meet all of the nonmedical and medical requirements of the SSI or SSDI program than you can expect it to take90 to 120 days for the Disability Determinations Services Office to review the claim and make a disability determination. The SSA may suggest this will done within 30 to 60 days, but that is an optimistic estimation, especially with the dramatic increase in disability applications in the last three months.

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