Suffering from a disability and undergoing medical treatment for it can be a painful experience. Moreover, if you are unable to work because of your medical condition, the impending financial troubles can cause stress, fear, and anxiety. Therefore, if you qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, it may ease you of some mental and financial burden.
However, the delay in receiving the SSD approval letter and winning disability benefits can also be a frustrating process. Generally, it takes three to five months for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to decide an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. If the application is approved, a Disability Approval Letter is issued. Otherwise, a denial letter is issued.
Learning more about the complicated SSD benefits application process could help you ease the frustration associated with waiting for an approval letter and ensure that you avoid unnecessary delays.
How is an SSD application decided?
The SSA manages two federal programs- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI applies to people who have paid social security taxes out of the income earned at a job or through self-employment for a long enough duration to qualify for benefits. On the other hand, SSI is a need-based program for people who have no to little income, and are disabled, blind or above 65 years of age.
When you apply for either of these two programs, a Social Security field officer will check your eligibility for non-medical requirements, i.e., income limits in the case of SSI and the work history/ earnings in the case of SSDI. Once the non-medical requirements are satisfied, the application moves further for examining medical requirements to a Disability Determination Service (DDS) office, a federal government-funded agency in each state.
The DDS staff goes through your medical records to decide whether you qualify for SSI/ SSDI benefits. In case the medical records are inconclusive, the DDS staff can hold a consultative examination with the physician who treated you or with an independent healthcare professional. Based on this assessment, the DDS staff decides if your application is to be approved or rejected. The entire process is called initial disability determination.
Although SSA provides an estimated time of three to five months for the initial disability determination, there could be a delay due to some factors-
You can avoid such unnecessary delays by contacting an experienced disability advocate who understands the complicated disability benefits procedure and prepares any additional information that may have to be provided well in advance.
How much time does it take at the appeals stage?
If your application gets denied during the initial disability determination, you will have to appeal the decision. The time it takes to decide an appeal depends on the stage of appeal. There are three levels of appeal in the case of disability benefits applications-
- 1). Reconsideration request.
- 2). Appeal before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
- 3). Review by the Appeals Council.
During reconsideration, your claim is assigned to an examiner in the DDS office who was not involved in the initial disability determination. The examiner goes through the case file and seeks additional information, if necessary. As per the Social Security Administration, 147 days is the average time taken to decide a reconsideration request.
If your claim is not decided at the reconsideration stage, your disability advocate may pursue an appeal before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Your request for SSD benefits will then be assigned to one of the several hearing centers across the country. Your hearing date is scheduled within 5 to 15 months depending on the workload of the hearing center.
If your claim is not approved by the ALJ either, you may approach the Appeals Council for a review. It takes about one year for a decision letter at this stage. If your claim is not approved even at the final level of appeal, you can institute a lawsuit in federal court, which can be a very time-consuming process and take a while for the final decision on your SSD claim.
Contact London Eligibility to avoid unnecessary delays
At London Eligibility, we are committed to help the disabled community in all possible ways. We are as interested as you are in helping you win the disability benefits you truly need and deserve. Our team of experienced disability lawyers and attorneys have an in depth understanding of the complicated SSD processes to help you avoid unnecessary delays in getting a Disability Approval Letter.