An injury has kept you from working. You know it’s not going to be temporary, and as the medical bills pile up and your pay is nonexistent, applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) becomes a necessity.
Yet, the SSD process is known for being long and convoluted. As a result, it’s recommended you get a lawyer involved. However, no matter if you do it on your own or with assistance, one question frequently comes up: “How long before I’m approved?”
It’s estimated that the process takes anywhere from one month to two years. There’s no clear-cut answer, as multiple factors come into play:
Paperwork & Organization
The strongest applications tend to have everything presented upfront, but this, in itself, isn’t always possible. What should you consider?
- Have all details from the start. If you can get a doctor to provide the necessary information, be ready with all medical treatment sources. This way, the disability examiner has an easier time obtaining and analyzing documents.
- Submitting your medical records with your initial application.
- Understanding that disability examiners are swamped with hundreds of cases. This can significantly lengthen the process in some states.
- The time doctors take to supply all records. This aspect is becoming faster, however, as some agencies are partnering with HMOs for electronic record transfers.
Some illnesses are approved quicker than others. This is known as compassionate allowance. Conditions are often extremely severe: ALS, advanced cancer, kidney disease, blindness, AIDs, and double amputations.
Multiple programs encompassing these conditions speed up approval:
- Quick Disability Determination Program – Software is used to examine disability cases.
- Compassionate Allowance – If the disability is on their list, the SSA will go through the process faster.
- Terminal Illness Program – A procedure designed for the terminally ill or those in hospice.
Expect each typical step to fall within a certain timeframe:
- Initial claim: Three to six months
- Reconsideration (the first step of appeals): Three to four months, although it may be shorter or longer.
- Appeal to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ): This step is where SSD approval greatly lengthens. Scheduling a hearing takes time – anywhere from six to 18 months. The timeframe depend on the number of pending cases at the hearing office.