Why Does Social Security Disability Take So Long?

June 8, 2011
By Louis B. Lusk on June 8, 2011 10:23 AM |

Many Social Security Disability applicants mistakenly believe that their claim will be approved and they'll receive benefits in just a few months. The truth is that the initial stage of the Social Security Disability application process alone can take three to four months. And unfortunately, only around 30 percent of applications are approved at this point.

If you have a disability that meets the Social Security Administration's (SSA) guidelines and have plenty of medical evidence on your side, your claim might be approved at the application level. If your application is denied, however, you must file a request for reconsideration. If your request for reconsideration is also denied, you will have to request a hearing before an administrative judge. Most claims have to pass through all three of these stages (initial request, reconsideration, and hearing) before receiving approval.

Why the Process Is So Slow

There are a number of reasons why the process of getting a Social Security Disability claim approved is so slow. For one, there is a backlog of disability cases filed with the SSA. Factors that have contributed to this backlog include the economic recession and the aging workforce, both of which have led to an increase in applications.

Nevertheless, the Social Security Disability claims process has always taken a long time. It is an inherently lengthy process because you must file the claim, which is then forwarded to your state's disability agency for a medical determination. At this stage, a state disability examiner will collect your medical records from places where you've received treatment and review them on behalf of the SSA. If your medical records aren't current or thorough enough, you will be required to attend a consultative medical exam. The disability examiner will write a disability medical determination based on your medical records, the results of the consultative medical exam, and other evidence.

If you receive a letter from the SSA stating that your claim for benefits was denied, you have 60 days to file a request for reconsideration. It usually takes three to four months to receive a decision regarding your request for reconsideration, but sometimes it can take over six months. Sadly, less than a quarter of claims are approved at the reconsideration level.

If your request for reconsideration is denied, you will have another 60 days to file an appeal. At this stage, you will be required to attend a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). However, it can take a year or longer for you to get your hearing scheduled because of the hearings backlog, so by the time the hearing actually takes place, you may already be two years into the claims process.

Want to Speed Up the Social Security Disability Claims Process?

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