Once a person has submitted a social security disability (SSD) or supplemental security income (SSI) application their number one question is: When I can expect to be approved for SSI or SSD benefits? Unfortunately, there is no set answer. Although the Social Security Administration (SSA), the federal agency that manages the SSD and SSI benefits program, has goals for how long each stage of the application process should take, they are just that – goals.
In reality, the SSD benefits approval process varies based on numerous factors, including the type and severity of the applicant’s disability, the completeness of the application, whether the application goes through the appeals process, and even where the application is filed. Based on the timeframe for each phase of the application process, it can take anywhere from three months to almost three years to be approved for benefits.
This timeline offers the best estimate – emphasis on estimate – on when you can expect your SSD benefits application to be approved.
SSD and SSI initial application
Completed SSD benefits applications are submitted to your local SSA field office. There, it is reviewed to confirm that you meet the non-medical eligibility criteria, including age, sufficient work credits, and that any monthly income you earn is less than substantial gainful activity. In 2021, an applicant must earn less than $1,310 ($2,190 if they are blind) to be eligible for SSD benefits. Failure to meet these non-medical eligibility criteria will result in a technical denial, meaning the SSA won’t even consider whether your disability prevents you from working.
If you meet the non-medical criteria, the application is then forwarded to disability determination services. The DDS examiner will review your application to determine whether you meet the SSA’s definition of disability. Depending on the completeness of your application, this review may include obtaining medical records directly from your doctor, which can increase wait times.
This initial review can take anywhere from three to five months. You can increase the chance that your application falls on the shorter end of that timeframe by making sure that you submit all of your relevant medical records – the easier it is for the DDS examiner to review and confirm your disability, the faster you will receive a decision. But other factors, including if the DDS field office reviewing your application has a backlog of cases, can lengthen the process.
The SSA estimates that one-third of all applications are approved at the initial stage, which means that 66% of applicants can expect to be denied SSD or SSI benefits.
If your SSD benefits application is denied, you have the right to ask for reconsideration. This is the first level of the appeals process and is conducted by a different DDS examiner in the same field office. You have 60 days from the date you receive a denial to apply for reconsideration, and can expect to wait the same three to five months to receive a decision. Because reconsideration is essentially a rehash of your application with no new information provided, the vast majority of SSD benefits applications are denied during the reconsideration phase.
If your SSD benefits or SSI benefits application is denied at reconsideration, you once again have the right to appeal, this time to an administrative law judge (ALJ) with a request for an administrative hearing. Like the reconsideration phase, you have 60 days to request an administrative hearing from the date your SSD or SSI application is denied.
At this point in the SSD benefits approval process, you could be anywhere from six to 10 months out from when you first submitted the SSD benefits application. The administrative hearing process will add a considerable amount of time to the waiting period. Depending on where you live, it can take anywhere from10 months to two years to get an administrative hearing scheduled; in Illinois, the current average wait time is 14.7 months.
What factors can speed up the SSD benefits approval process?
Though how long it takes the SSA to issue a decision on your disability application varies, some factors can speed up the approval process. You can expect a quick and favorable decision on your SSD application if any of the following about your medical condition applies:
- It is included on the SSA’s compassionate allowance list. These are conditions, primarily certain cancers and adult brain disorders, that meet the SSA’s disability criteria and require quick approval.
- It meets all of the criteria listed in the SSA Blue Book, which includes more than 100 medical conditions the SSA considers disabling.
- It qualifies for a quick disability determination. These are conditions where medical evidence is readily available and approval is highly likely.
- It is terminal.
Can hiring a disability attorney speed up the timeline for SSD benefits approval?
Again, there are no guarantees on how long it will take the SSA to approve a disability application. But hiring an experienced disability attorney may help by ensuring that the SSA has all of the information necessary to fully evaluate your claim.
Although claimants can go it alone, the SSA rules and regulations surrounding disability benefits are complex and often confusing. The attorneys at The Good Law Group have more than 30 years combined experience handling disability claims. We know not only what medical information the SSA needs to evaluate your SSD or SSI benefits claim, but the best way to present it as well. Providing the right information with your application at the start of the process makes it easier for the SSA to evaluate your application. And the easier it is for them, the faster they can issue a decision.
We offer a free, initial consultation to evaluate your disability claim. And there is no cost to you unless you receive benefits. Call us at 800-419-7606 to schedule a consultation.