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Social Security Disability and the Waiting Game


The onset of a disability is usually quick and unexpected, and leaves the sufferer scrambling to obtain the proper medical care and support. Further, working is typically impossible for at least a short period of time, which means another source of income must be found. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a source many disabled individuals use to replace this lost income if they do not have employer-provided or private disability insurance. Instead, recipients must work for a certain number of years to build up a sufficient number of work credits, with the number of necessary credits for benefits being based upon the age a person becomes disabled. In addition, the person must meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of “disabled.” However, the biggest obstacle to obtaining the necessary SSDI benefits is time. Disabled individuals unable to work are usually in desperate need of infusions of money to pay for all the new expenses associated with treating and managing the disability, but getting approval for SSDI often takes years, leaving the disabled with no stable income for a long time. Even worse, a study published in 2014 found that thousands of applicants die before approval for SSDI is granted. Consequently, the long waiting period to approval is a reality that cannot be ignored, and must be factored into a person’s long-term financial and health picture.

How Long Each Step Takes

An SSDI applicant can expect to wait between 30-120 days for a decision on the initial application, with 90 days being the average wait time. A decision during the initial review is largely dependent on the amount of people applying for SSDI within a given geographical area, so individuals that live in larger cities can expect to wait longer because demand will be higher.

If the application is denied at the first stage, the vast majority of which are, the first level of appeal is to ask for a reconsideration. This stage is usually relatively short, often less than 60 days, because the evaluation process from the initial review is simply reapplied, and all medical evidence should be available for review, unless there is new information to submit. However, absent an error and compelling new medical evidence, applications are rarely approved at this stage.

The next step is to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. This stage is the longest, and applicants can expect to wait over a year to receive a hearing date, and then months to get a decision. However, applicants have the greatest chance of approval at this stage, making the wait worthwhile. Because this step involves an appearance before a judge, the services of an experienced Social Security disability attorney are usually necessary. These representatives understand the guidelines the SSA uses to determine disability claims, and thus will be able to present the applicant’s case most effectively.

Issues that Hamper Approval

Given the amount of time it takes to move through the SSDI claim approval process, limiting any issues that could hamper a decision are extremely important. The most common issues that can delay approval include:

  • failing to update the SSA with current address and telephone contact information in case an examiner needs to call or write with questions;
  • failing to provide all current and relevant medical evidence; and
  • failing to keep a required SSA medical evaluation appointment.

Contact a Social Security Disability Attorney

Getting approval for SSDI benefits is vitally important to your financial and medical health. Thus, give yourself the best chance at success by hiring a social security disability attorney to handle your claim. Farrell Disability Law represents clients throughout Florida and South Georgia, and will strongly advocate for an approval. Contact the office for a free consultation.


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