How Long Will It Take for a Decision to Be Made?
This is an important question every Social Security applicant wants answered. There are no hard and fast rules, however, a good estimate is that it will take between 3 and 6 months after your initial application is filed before you get a decision on your claim.
Unfortunately if the initial application is denied, it will take much longer to receive a ruling on an appeal. It can take between 12 and 16 months for appeal papers to be processed and a hearing date scheduled. That’s a terribly long time to wait. It is extremely difficult to get a quick hearing and “dire need” must be shown for an emergency hearing to be set by the Law Judge.
Once the hearing has taken place, most Judges will issue their written decisions within 3 months.
Checking the Status
After you submit the application for your Social Security disability benefits, you will need to wait several months to hear back from the Social Security Administration (SSA) with a decision. If you have not gotten a response after a few months, you can check the status of your application in two ways.
Over the Phone
You can contact the SSA over the phone to check the status of your claim. The representative should be able to give you information on your case, including where in the process your application currently is. However, the representative will only have basic information. He or she will not be able to tell you the likelihood of acceptance or put a definite date on when the decision will be made.
You can also check the status of your claim online at the SSA website. You will need to provide your Social Security number and the confirmation number the SSA gave you when you submitted your application. The online option asks that you wait at least five days before you try to check on your application. Realistically, you should not expect a decision before a month has passed. Often it will take longer.
The online status check will also only give you basic information about your case, and will not include a guaranteed date that a decision will be reached or explain if anything is holding the application up.
Contact Your Disability Examiner
To get a more detailed understanding of what is going on with your claim, you can contact the disability examiner that is handling your claim directly. The examiner works for Disability Determination Services, a separate organization from the SSA. You can usually get more information from the examiner about the status of your case and if anything is holding up the decision. You can also ask if there is anything you can do to help the process along.
Keep in mind that the examiner only handles your claim after it is first submitted and through the first appeal. If your claim is on the second appeal, where it requires a hearing before an administrative law judge, then the examiner will no longer be of help. Claims on their second appeal are handled by the SSA. In this case you are probably best off calling the hearing office directly to find out about your claim.
Being Prepared for the Application Process
Getting a favorable decision on a Social Security disability application can take far longer than most people are prepared for. By the time you get a final decision, your financial situation may be severe and you may be under considerable stress. While there is not much you can do to hurry an organization like the SSA along, it is still useful to understand the process and how to check the status of your application.
Be forewarned, many Social Security disability applications are denied the first time. It can take months to receive notice of denial, and then a year or two to appeal the decision. If at all possible, you should plan ahead financially to weather the long wait without benefits. Knowing that you will be without income, you can hopefully restructure your existing debts, avoid taking on new debts and apply for benefits – like SNAP benefits – to help you in the coming months.
Fortunately, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel – particularly if you have an experienced attorney working on your behalf. My firm has helped numerous applicants win their appeals and get the benefits they need so badly, and I may be able to do the same for you.
If you are considering applying for Social Security disability, or if you are worried about the status of your claim or appeal, please contact Paul Giannetti now for a free consultation. I can help you determine your options, and help increase your chances of a successful application.