There is really no way to predict how long it may take for the Social Security Administration to issue a decision on a disability claim. There are many reasons. 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, a social security disability decision can take 3-4 months, initially. The first level of appeal, or reconsideration, takes about the same amount of time.
Administrative appeal of a social security disability decision
If you are still denied benefits after a reconsideration, an appeal to an administrative law judge, 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 is, varies by geographic area.
The Social Security Administration will expedite the determination process for certain critical cases. These include:
- the applicant suffers from a terminal illness
- the applicant’s condition qualifies for a “compassionate allowance”
- the applicant served in the military on or after October 1, 2001
- the applicant is in dire need of assistance, or
- the applicant is 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 of your social security disability decision, 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 federal court
If the Council upholds the 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.
If you have questions regarding social security decisions, or any other social security disability concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
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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