If you are unable to work due to a disability, you may be eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These disability benefits can be an important source of financial stability.
In most cases, it takes between 3 and 5 months to be approved for SSDI and/or SSI. However, there are a number of factors that influence how long it takes to get Social Security disability benefits, such as the length of time that it takes to gather medical records and other supporting evidence. A Skilled disability benefits longer can often help you get benefits more quickly by helping you avoid common pitfalls in the disability claim process.
Based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Bross & Frankel represents individuals with disabilities throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We work hard to help our clients get approved based on their initial application. When necessary, we will file an appeal to ensure that you get the benefits that you deserve. Reach out today to schedule a free claim review with a member of our team.
How Long Does It Take to Get Approved for Social Security Disability?
To qualify for SSDI and/or SSI benefits, you must have a medical or mental health condition that either has or is expected to make you unable to work for at least 12 months, or that is expected to result in your death. This does not mean that you have to be out of work for a year before you can apply for benefits. Instead, if you are diagnosed with a condition that is expected to render you unable to work for at least a year, you can apply for benefits immediately.
This is important, because the disability claim process can be lengthy. After the SSA receives your disability application, it typically takes 3 to 5 months for them to provide an initial disability determination letter. If you wait to apply until after you have been out of work for a year or more, then it can create a significant financial hardship.
Of course, most cases are not approved initially, and so will not be decided within the standard 3 to 5 month time frame. There are a number of factors that can influence the length of time that it takes to get disability. For example, if you do not submit medical evidence with your application and your doctors do not respond to Social Security’s requests for records immediately, it can take even longer for your claim to be processed. If enough medical evidence is not provided with your initial application, then you may be required to meet with a SSA doctor for further review. Even if you do everything right, Social Security often simply gets it wrong, requiring you to appeal to fight for your benefits.
Another factor that influences how long it takes to get disability is where you live. Disability claims are processed through regional offices. If you live in a less populous state, then there is a greater likelihood that your claim will be processed more quickly than the average wait time.
If your initial claim is denied, then it will take even longer to get a final determination. Currently, it takes an average of 147 days for the Social Security Administration to process a request for reconsideration. Because Reconsideration results in approval in a very small percentage of cases, most cases that are denied will have to be again appealed to an Administrative Law Judge hearing, which may stretch these timelines out to more than a year.
What to Expect During the Disability Application Process
The Social Security disability benefits process involves multiple steps. First, you will need to gather medical evidence, and compile additional information. Second, you will complete and submit your application. This can be done online, by phone, or in person. Generally, completing an application online will result in faster processing times.
Third, once the Social Security Administration receives your application, they will review it to determine if you meet basic requirements for disability benefits, such as whether you have worked enough years to qualify for SSDI, or whether you are currently engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). If you meet these minimum criteria, then the SSA will process your application and forward the case to the Disability Determination Services office in your state.
Fourth, a disability examiner at the state Disability Determination Services office will make the disability determination decision using the five-step sequential process. You will be contacted if the SSA has any questions or needs additional information. Fifth, the SSA will send a letter in the mail to notify you of their decision on your initial claim.
There are a number of pitfalls that many people fall into when applying for SSDI and/or SSI. Working with experienced disability attorneys can help you avoid many of these setbacks, each of which can significantly extend the average wait time. These issues include:
- Not providing all medical evidence with your initial application;
- Failing to list all off your doctors on your application, plus their office addresses and the dates that you saw them;
- Not checking in on your claim’s progress using your My Social Security account; and
- Not gathering letters from each of your doctors to explain your condition.
Most delays arise when the SSA has to seek out the information necessary to process your application. The best way to avoid these problems is to collect as much information as you can on your own and submit it with your disability application. In this way, you won’t have to wait for an extended period of time if your doctors don’t respond to requests from the SSA.
In addition, you should regularly check the progress of your claim. If the disability examiner needs more information or has any questions, this is the easiest way to respond. Monitoring the claim progress will allow you to stay on top of any issues that may arise.
Finally, you should consider working with a disability lawyer. An attorney can gather all of the information that you need to put together a strong case for disability benefits.
What To Do If You’re Denied
If your claim is denied, you can file an appeal of Social Security’s decision. You must request an appeal in writing within 60 days of receiving a decision from the SSA. There are four levels of appeal:
- A hearing before an administrative law judge;
- A review by Social Security’s Appeals Council; and
- A review by the federal courts.
A disability claim denied by the SSA is not the end of the road. Instead, it is an opportunity to submit more evidence and work towards getting final approval based on your medical condition or mental health diagnosis.
I Was Approved for Disability. When Will I Get My First Check?
If your application for SSDI and/or SSI is approved, then you typically will wait 5 months to receive your first disability benefits payment. This time period starts on the date that the SSA first finds that you became disabled. You will usually receive your first check in the sixth full month after your disability began.
There are some exceptions to this general rule, such as for individuals with certain conditions like ALS. To learn more, reach out to Bross & Frankel today to schedule a free claim review with a New Jersey disability benefits lawyer.
Can I Get Back Pay for the Time It Took Me to Get Disability?
If you are approved for SSDI and/or SSI, then you will be entitled to disability benefits starting on the date that you became disabled. If it took a particularly long time to be approved for disability you may be able to get back payments, which are the benefits that you would have received if you had applied for and been approved for benefits earlier. The amount of back pay that you will get depends on (1) the type of benefit (SSDI or SSI); (2) disability onset date; (3) application date; and (4) any waiting period.
Figuring out back pay can be difficult. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you understand your rights, and can fight for you to get the maximum benefits possible. Reach out today to schedule a free initial consultation with our law firm.
How Should I Apply for Disability If I Want a Decision Quickly?
To get a decision as quickly as possible, the SSA recommends applying online. Filing online means that you won’t have to wait for an appointment at your local Social Security Office and that you can submit your information immediately.
Working with an experienced disability benefits attorney can also help to ensure that you get a decision within the average wait time (or faster). Your lawyer can make sure that your application is filled out properly and that all support evidence is included. Reach out today to schedule a free claim review.
Considering Filing for Disability? We’re Here to Help.
Millions of Americans are unable to work due to a disability. If you find yourself in that situation, you may be able to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income. In most cases, you will have a decision on your application within 3 to 5 months.
At Bross & Frankel, we are fierce advocates for clients who cannot work due to a disability. Our legal team will stand by your side, from the initial application through the appeals process. To learn more about how we can help or to schedule a free claim review with a New Jersey disability attorney, contact our office today at (866) 862-4063, or reach out online.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.