Why Do Social Security Disability Claims Take So Long to be Approved?

When you cannot work and are having a difficult time making ends meet, waiting for your Social Security Disability claim to be approved may seem like an eternity. This feeling of forever might not be just in your imagination, however. According to the Social Security Administration, the full five-step Social Security Disability application and appeals process currently averages 440 days - that's over a year! So why do Social Security Disability (SSD) cases take so long to be approved?

In 2009 alone, more than 3.3 million Americans filed for SSD benefits or Social Security Income (SSI) benefits. This is a huge caseload for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to process, so most disability applicants should expect it to take about three to four months from the time they apply to receive an initial decision on their claim. Sometimes claims are approved as soon as they are processed. If your SSD claim is airtight and you have a condition that meets all of the Social Security Disability eligibility requirements it might take you only three to four months to be approved. Great! Generally only about 30 percent of applications are approved at the initial stage of the application process, however.

Most SSD applicants don't meet the SSA's specific disability guidelines or they lack medical evidence to support their claim. Because of this, most SSD cases are denied the first time around, requiring them to go through the appeals process in order to receive benefits. If you receive a notification that your claim for SSD or SSI benefits has been denied you have 60 days to appeal the decision with a written Request for Reconsideration. Once you have filed your Request for Reconsideration it can take anywhere from three to six months to receive the decision regarding your request (depending on your particular disability claim and/or the caseload of your local Social Security Office). So now we're about six to ten months into the Social Security Disability claims process.

Less than 25 percent of Requests for Reconsideration are decided in the favor of the applicant. If your request is denied, you now have another 60 days to appeal the denied reconsideration request and request a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Due to the SSA's hearing backlog, it can take a year or more to have your hearing scheduled. So by the time your hearing date arrives, you may be two years into the disability claim process. Additionally, if at any point you wait more than 60 days to appeal a decision, you must start the whole process over again.

How Can You Speed Up the Social Security Disability Claim Process?

If you are thinking about applying for SSD benefits, it's important to apply as soon as you and your doctors agree that your disability is going to last a full year. Aside from that, the best way to ensure your claim is approved in the initial stage of the application process is to hire a Social Security Disability advocate to help you file your claim. An advocate with a lot of experience winning Social Security Disability cases will know exactly what needs to be in your initial claim, what kind of documentation you need, and what kind of medical evidence you need in order to be approved.

Payment to your Social Security Disability advocate is regulated by the government, and they only get paid once they win your case. Your advocate's fee is the same no matter when they begin working on your claim, so hiring an advocate from the very beginning is the best thing you can do to speed up the SSD claim process. Don't wait years to receive SSD benefits; hire an SSD advocate to handle your SSD or SSI claim and increase your chances of a quick approval.

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Binder & Binder® was formed in 1975 to help clients all over America obtain Social Security Disability benefits. As America's Most Successful Social Security Disability Advocates®, they have served tens of thousands of people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and all U.S. territories in matters of Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income.

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