SSD Application Process
It can take up to two years to begin receiving SSDI benefits if you aren't approved right away.

The SSD Application Process and Timeline

The application and approval process for Social Security Disability (SSD) can be painstakingly long, especially today when more applicants are filing disability claims. Most people know they need to apply as soon as their health forces them to stop working. However, they usually don’t know how long the process takes from first steps to first check. We’ve broken down the timeline to illustrate the approval process as well as crucial tidbits of information surrounding how to apply for Social Security disability.

How to Begin the SSD Application Process

The SSD application process itself begins in when you fill out your claim. The sooner you do this, the better. That’s because your application date will become crucial once you’ve been approved. After you’ve filled out the application online or in your local Social Security office, it will get sent to your state’s Disability Determination Services. There, it will be given to disability claims examiners and reviewed for approval or denial. The process for determining each applicant’s fate varies greatly, and there is no time limit set on when individual decisions should be made. It largely depends on how much information the examiner needs to collect, how long it will take to collect it and how many applications they currently have in the queue.

Your doctors will be contacted as well as any hospitals you’ve visited, calls to your friends and relatives will be made, and all of your work and medical records will be combed over. If the examiner still feels unsure about his or her decision, he or she will request you visit one of their doctors for a medical exam. This can all take anywhere from one to six months in total. To expedite the process a bit, it’s a good idea to collect as many of these medical records and testimonials as you can. The less digging the examiner needs to do, the better off you’ll be.

SSD Application Process: What Happens After You’ve Filed?

All in all, the SSA only approves about 1 in 5 first-time disability applicants (20%). Those with denied claims must appeal the decision within 60 days. It usually takes another three to six months for the SSA to issue your next determination decision. If the second decision (also known as reconsideration) results in your claim’s denial, then you’ll need to request a hearing. The usual wait time before appearing in court is six months to one year. That means you may have to wait up to two years after submitting your initial application. However, another 15% eventually win benefits on appeal, bringing the total approval rate for 2017 up to 35%.

SSD Application Process: After Claim Approval

Once you receive approval, it will take some time to start receiving payments. The SSA considers your application date to be your “onset date,” and they use it to mark the start of your mandatory five-month waiting period. This may sound like a long stretch of time to go without benefits, but it’s unlikely your application will have been approved before this point, meaning that your benefits will start right away. That said, it generally still takes 2-3 months to start receiving your monthly checks. The SSA will send you backpay from those months over the course of the following year.

SSA Denied You Benefits? Then Do This Next

The SSD application process doesn’t end if your first claim’s denied. Instead, you have 60 days from the day your denial letter arrives to file an appeal. However, where you live largely determines how long you’ll wait for an appeals hearing. See average appeals hearing wait times in your state or region here. Currently, the national average wait time for an appeals hearing is 17.3 months. In other words, you’ll wait at least two years from the date you apply if you win SSD benefits on appeal. Applicants who miss the deadline to appeal must start the SSD application process all over again. Unfortunately, re-applying also lowers your chances for approval… so appealing is always your best option.

Get Free Legal Assistance

The last thing you want is for the SSD application process to take two years or longer. To avoid this, you should speak with an experienced Social Security disability attorney before you start the SSD application process. Having an attorney file your claim makes you 2x more likely to win benefits the first time you apply. The faster the SSA reviews and approves your claim, the faster your much-needed benefits begin.

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