Recently, we received the question on our disability forum, “How do I know if my disability lawyer is really working on my case or has quit?” This is a great question but is generally asked because most applicants have little idea about the amount of time it will take to process their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income case (SSI) and how much time is spent simply waiting.
So what is my disability lawyer doing anyway?
Let’s talk a bit about the SSDI or SSI disability process. If you have submitted your SSI or SSDI application to the SSA it can take up to 120 days to hear whether or not your case has been approved or denied. Assuming you were denied at the initial SSDI or SSI application level and you appealed the denial, hiring a disability lawyer to process the Reconsideration Appeal paperwork, than it is back to waiting.
What happens after my attorney files the SSDI or SSI Reconsideration paperwork?
After the SSI or SSDI Reconsideration paperwork has been completed your application is sent to another disability examiner, who was not involved in the previous denial, and is reviewed a second time. Ideally, this would take 30 to 90 days.
How long does it really take? This can really be anyone’s guess given the fact that over 3 million individuals applied for SSI and SSDI last year. So during this time the lawyer is waiting, just like you, to hear whether or not you will be approved at the SSDI or SSI Reconsideration appeal’s level.
If you are denied at this level you will have 60 days from the date of the SSDI or SSI denial letter to file a request to have your case reviewed before an administrative law judge at a hearing. This sounds promising, right? But now the waiting really begins. If you thought the process was long before just wait until you are waiting for a hearing.
How long until I get my disability hearing?
The waiting time is different in all parts of the country. The SSA administrative hearings are held in courts throughout the country, but the states are divided into regions, and the number of cases waiting to be heard at each hearing office varies by region. Some parts of the country may have a dozen or half a dozen judges but the cases waiting to be scheduled for hearings could be in the hundreds. There have been attempts made in the past to expedite the hearing process, but many applicants wait one to two years for a hearing.
So what is the disability lawyer doing while your case is in line to be heard by the Administrative Law Judge? They are doing the same thing you are doing- waiting. There is little the lawyer can do to speed up the hearing schedule (the only option is to request an On the Record Review, which is a request that is made after the hearing i scheduled and is a formal request that asks for a decision to be made without a face to face hearing before the judge. This is only done if the lawyer thinks your case is VERY strong and you have very good medical evidence).
When does the lawyer jump into action?
So if the lawyer is waiting and you are waiting you may wonder why you hired them in the first place, but once the lawyer gets the notice for your hearing and they will make sure they have all the information they need to prove your case. This will include verifying your medical records and formulating their argument for the judge.
Could you do this yourself? Yes, you could with enough practice and training, but the truth of the matter is the lawyer generally handles dozens of cases a month and is an
expert at gathering medical information, sifting through relevant documents, reviewing your work history and determining your residual functional ability to work. The experience they have with other cases similar to yours and their understanding of the disability process is invaluable.
So what do you do if you don’t know if your lawyer is doing enough? Call them and talk to them about your case.
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