The SSD Application Process and Timeline

SSD Application Process

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 they’re too disabled to work, but they aren’t usually aware of 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.



The SSD Application Process

The process itself begins in when you fill out your application. The sooner you do this, the better, as your application date will become crucial after you’ve been approved. Once 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, where 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: After You’ve Applied

All in all, only about 1 in 5 first-time disability applicants currently get approved (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 You’ve Been Approved

Once you’ve been approved, it will take some time to start receiving payments. The date of your application is considered to be your “onset date,” and it’s used at the start of the SSA’s 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 being said, it generally still takes two to three months to start receiving your monthly checks. The SSA will send you backpay from those months over the course of the following year.

SSD Application Process: If Your Claim’s Denied

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 is 17.3 months before your case is heard. 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 if you’ve recently become disabled is for this process to take two years or longer, so it’s a good idea to speak with an experienced Social Security disability advocate or attorney before you start the application process. Not only will they be able to help you prepare, but they also know what to do in the event that your application gets denied during the first round. The faster your claim is reviewed and approved, the faster you’ll start receiving the benefits you need.

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