social security disability It is impossible to accurately predict how long it will take for the Social Security Administration to make a determination on a social security disability claim.  It can easily take anywhere from 30 days to two years for your benefits to be awarded.  Unfortunately, social security programs do not have established deadlines for applications or appeals.  On average, an initial disability claim can take 3-4 months for a decision.  The first level of appeal, or reconsideration, takes about the same amount of time.

Administrative Appeals

If you are still denied benefits after a reconsideration, an appeal to an administrative law judge (ALJ) is the next step.  Obtaining a decision at this stage of appeal usually takes much longer, because a hearing is required.  The wait time for a hearing to be scheduled can be anywhere from 6 months to a year.  The time really depends on how many cases are pending at that particular hearing office. How busy an office may be will vary by geographic area.

How to Obtain an Expedited Decision

The Social Security Administration will expedite the determination process for certain critical cases. These include a terminal illness, a condition that qualifies for a “compassionate allowance,” service in the military on or after October 1, 2001, dire need of assistance, or a threat to personal or public safety.

What to expect at a hearing

An Administrative Law Judge will preside over the hearing and is an impartial individual who was not involved in the denial of your claim.  The hearing is your opportunity to present your case and provide additional information to support your disability claim.  You can bring witnesses to testify on your behalf.  You can also have an attorney present to represent you.  After the hearing is concluded, the Administrative Law Judge will issue a written decision on your claim.

What comes after an appeals hearing?

If you are still denied benefits after the appeals hearing, you can ask for further review by the Social Security Appeal’s Council.  The Council will consider the request for review.  However, if the Council agrees with the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, it may not agree to review your claim.  On the other hand, the Council can decide your case itself or require the Administrative Law Judge to review your case again.

The final step is taking your claim to federal court

If the Council upholds the ALJ’s denial of your claim, or if they refuse to review your case at all, your last resort is to file a lawsuit in federal court, within 60 days.  The Social Security Administration will no longer be involved and cannot assist you in filing the lawsuit.  Obtaining legal representation, if you haven’t already, is crucial.
This part of the appeals process will likely take a year or more.  Your case can be remanded to the Administrative Law Judge for reconsideration, the Administrative Law Judge’s decision can be affirmed, or the court can reverse the decision and award your social security benefits.

When do I become eligible to apply for SSDI?

Most people are eligible to file a disability application the day after they either stop working entirely or their earning drop below $1,197 per month as of 2018 (or $1,970 per month for individuals receiving benefits based on blindness).  Your condition must be expected to last at least one year.  If you are initially denied, but your medical condition becomes worse by the time you receive a reconsideration or hearing, you can submit new evidence regarding your condition.  Therefore, there is no reason to wait until your condition worsens, before you file your initial application.  Get the process started as early as possible.

Are you disabled and unable to work?

It is all too common for people to procrastinate when it comes to applying for social security disability.  However, given the fact that obtaining a decision on a disability claim can take months, if not years, this may not be the best way to go.
Generally speaking, if you disabled, or believe you may be, and you are unable to work, you may qualify for disability benefits.  If that is the case, it would be wise to minimize the time you will ultimately wait to receive benefits, by filing a Social Security disability application as soon as you become eligible.
If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (800) 364-8305.

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Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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