Social Security Disability claims do not have deadlines. While the Social Security Administration (SSA) tells you to expect to hear an initial decision within three to five months, this is just an estimate and you have little to no recourse if the process runs over that time frame.
If you received a denial for your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may file an appeal. The appeal timeline depends on several factors, including:
- How quickly you file your appeal following the initial decision;
- The evidence in your appeal;
- The appeal level of the disability claim; and
- Whether there is a backlog at the SSA office.
How can I minimize the time my appeal takes?
When you file an appeal on your disability claim, you are largely at the mercy of the SSA office. However, there are a couple of ways you can speed up the process on your end.
First, file your appeal immediately after the SSA denies your claim. The SSA requires you to file your appeal within 60 days of receiving a denial letter, or you may lose your right to appeal.
Furthermore, every day you wait to file, other appeals enter the queue ahead of yours. You have no way of knowing the volume of appeals the SSA office is receiving at any given time. If you happen to file your appeal during a high-volume period, every day you wait could add weeks to the process.
The more evidence you include and the better you organize it in your appeal, the greater chance you have of receiving a favorable outcome. The disability attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group can help you compile all the available evidence and present it to the SSA in a compelling manner so they can work through it quickly.
How does my appeal level affect the decision time?
The time it takes to hear a decision from the SSA depends in large part on the level you are at in the appeals process.
The Reconsideration Appeal
The first stage is a reconsideration appeal. This is what you file upon receiving a denial from the SSA in their initial disability decision. Your reconsideration appeal mirrors your initial application. The paperwork is largely the same and it ends up in the same office at the SSA for consideration. A different person who did not view your initial application will review your reconsideration appeal.
Because the SSA is reviewing the same claim they looked at before, a reconsideration appeal usually takes no longer than the initial decision. It may even be faster, particularly if the examiner has no additional evidence to consider.
While additional evidence might slow the process, the extra time is worth it if it boosts your chances of a favorable decision. Our goal is to submit your case in a way that results in the best outcome in the shortest time.
The Disability Hearing
Because reconsideration appeals are essentially resubmissions of your initial claim, few of them receive approval. If your reconsideration appeal ends in a denial from the SSA, we can request a disability hearing before an administrative law judge on your behalf. This is the second step in the process.
A hearing gives us the chance to plead your case face-to-face with a judge and defend the evidence we gather on your behalf. This greatly improves your chance of having your denial reversed. The wait for a disability hearing is, unfortunately, much longer than for a reconsideration appeal. Depending on your area of the country, it can take anywhere from a few months to more than two years.
Once you have your hearing, the wait to hear a decision from the judge is usually much shorter, but the judge is free to take as much time as needed to make a decision.
If your hearing ends in a denial from the administrative law judge, we can request a review from the SSA Appeals Council or even take action through a federal court to continue the appeals process.
What other factors affect how long my appeal will take?
The other factor at play is any backlog of disability appeals that might be present at the SSA. Unfortunately, you have no control over this. If the SSA is currently working on a large number of appeals, yours will take longer.
This is why it is imperative to do everything you can to speed the process while you have control. You can do this by ensuring a timely submission of your appeal and including all evidence in a presentable manner.
The attorneys at the Disability Advantage Group can help you put together the strongest appeal in the shortest amount of time. We have years of experience fighting SSA disability denials and will appeal your case aggressively. The consultation is always free, so give us a call at 865-566-0800 today to discuss your options.