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Why Does the Social Security Disability Approval Process Take So Long?

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be a long process.  Why?  Well, it is a combination of a large volume of disability cases pending, the time it takes to secure medical records, and an excessive amount of red tape via forms and different review levels.

Beware, even when Social Security agrees you are disabled after your initial application, it may be six months before you hear back.

However, if you are like most applicants, if you are denied benefits initially, the appeal processes can stretch out for more than two years, before you can present your case to an administrative law judge.

The waiting process can be excruciating for those who depend on the disability benefits to support themselves and their families after an illness or injury that has left them unable to work. If you are denied after filing your initial application, an attorney with experience in filing SSDI can help you move through the appeal process as effectively as possible.

Social Security Disability Initial Review Process

When you first file your claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, take the time to completely fill out the initial information Intake. It will not only help your application get approved, it may also allow your case to proceed with minimal delays once it is your turn for review.

The Social Security Administration worker assigned to your application will review all the medical documentation you have provided with your application, along with all evidence you have included documenting your inability to perform your job. The initial review will likely take three to six months before you receive the initial written decision about your benefits.

Older man signing paperwork with a female attorney.

What Causes the Timeline to Be So Long?

During the initial review process, you may feel as though the wait is far longer than necessary than it should be. One of the reasons the approval process takes so long is a significant backlog in the system. As the population ages and more people meet the eligibility criteria for benefits, the number of applications has increased, and the number of caseworkers and administrative law judges is insufficient to keep up with the number of applications and hearings.

Since many applicants are not approved after their initial filing and the appeal process is longer and more involved, it can take another three to six months to hear about your reconsideration, and an additional year thereafter to get an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) hearing. Even after the hearing, most judges have such a backlog of cases waiting for decisions that it can take an additional three to six months to issue their ruling. So the time between application and the ALJ hearing decision can be over 2 years.

In addition to the volume of applications and appeals received by case workers and administrative judges, it is essential to note that every application may include hundreds or thousands of pages of medical records for each claimant.  These records have to be logged and reviewed.

What Can Cause My Claim to Be Denied?

Although it can feel disappointing and even unfair to have your initial claim for SSDI denied, it is important to know that this result is typical and that only a small percentage of claims are approved after the first application for benefits.

The age at application is a large factor in being denied.  Also, claims may be denied initially due to incomplete paperwork or missing documentation. Having a strong and complete application gives you the best chance to move through the process as quickly as possible. When you are building your case, make sure to include absolutely everything relevant to your injury and disability, the medical treatment you are receiving, and evidence as to how your disability prevents you from doing your job. This information includes forms that ask you to document your daily activities, daily symptoms, functional limitations, and past work history.

Appealing If Your Claim is Denied

Do not lose heart if your claim is denied. Most initial SSDI applications are not approved.

You have the right to file an appeal, and are given 60 days from the date of your initial denial letter to do so. Once you file your appeal, your case will be reviewed alongside any new medical records, documentation, medical exams, and forms that will provide additional information. As with the initial review, a Reconsideration decision usually takes three to six months. If your application is denied again, you can file a second appeal, and then you may request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Waiting for your hearing date can take several months, and you will be given at least 75 days’ notice with the date and time of your hearing. You can testify, call witnesses, and question witnesses during the hearing.

Although most applicants file their initial SSDI paperwork independently, if your claim is denied and you are beginning the appeals process, you should employ an attorney experienced in the SSDI application and appeal process. Your attorney will be able to assist you with gathering and organizing documentation and will even be able to attend your hearing and speak on your behalf. With an attorney working with you through the appeal process, your chances of successfully receiving benefits may increase.

The SSDI process can be long and frustrating, but if you are eligible for SSDI benefits with a qualifying disability, being patient, thorough, and working with an experienced attorney can give you the best chance to get the benefits you deserve.

Why Partner with Arthur Law Firm?

If navigating the lengthy SSDI process, consider partnering with Arthur Law Firm. Our experienced attorneys can guide you through appeals, ensuring your case receives the attention it deserves. Get the benefits you’re entitled to with our help. Contact us today at (419) 782-9881 for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.