How Long Does It Take to Get a Disability Approval Letter?
Waiting for a decision from Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) can cause you to feel anxious and frustrated, especially if you have no idea how long you could be waiting for approval. At MJ Ellis Disability Law, we understand how “not knowing” when to expect the decision can be the worst part of the whole process.
Attorney Maryjean Ellis and MJ Ellis Disability Law are focused on helping disabled residents in the Northern New Jersey and surrounding area get the full disability benefits to which they are entitled. Disability law is our exclusive legal practice. We hope this blog post helps you to understand how the SSD benefit approval process works, and how long your disability claim should take to be approved.
How Your SSD Claim Moves Through the Approval Process
All SSD benefit claims travels through the same path at the beginning of the process. The most important first stage is properly preparing your claim for filing by ensuring it is complete and clear so it can be easily understood and approved. Less experienced SSD lawyers and nonlawyers who file incomplete SSD claim packages missing medical documents or containing unclear diagnoses cause unnecessary delays because the claim either gets rejected or is returned for more information.
First Step – Disability Determination Services (Technical Eligibility)
Your SSD benefits claim’s first stop in the approval process is at the office of Disability Determination Services (DDS). These local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices or state agencies conduct the initial review of your claim for basic information. Their first task is to screen out any SSD claim from a person who is “technically” not qualified.
Technical denials include those based on a claimant not working long enough to earn the work credits needed to be covered by SSD Insurance. Or a person may have worked long enough, but not recently enough to qualify. Generally, half of your work credits need to have been earned in the five years prior to the beginning of your disability. Earning more than the SSA’s income eligibility cap also disqualifies some disability claims at this stage. The DDS determines technical eligibility quickly and anyone denied on technical grounds should get notified fairly quickly, probably within 60 days.
Second Step – Initial Review of Claimed Disability
If the DDS determined you were technically eligible for SSD benefits by work credits and income, then your application moves forward to an assessment of your claimed disability. At this stage in the approval process, SSA case review agents examine the medical documents submitted with your claim.
This initial review is limited only to the documents you submitted. If your Social Security Disability claim is accompanied by enough supporting medical evidence to establish your disability, then your SSD claim can be approved at this early stage. If the initial reviewer doesn’t see persuasive evidence supporting your claim, then they will issue what we call an “initial denial.”
This initial disability assessment process should be completed within three to six months of the date you submitted your SSD claim. However, for a variety of reasons, this first full review of your application can take longer, perhaps up to eight or nine months. Much depends on the volume of cases being handled by your DDS office. Unfortunately, some experts believe that a heavy caseload at a DDS office leads to superficial case reviews and more initial denials of valid disability claims.
Requesting Reconsideration Following an Initial Denial
If your claim is initially denied, you are entitled to request reconsideration of the initial denial. This second review is still limited only to documents, without an opportunity to present testimony from your doctors. If you can supplement your claim package with new medical reports, the decision could change to an approval, although this is unusual.
Even when a fairly superficial reconsideration of an initial denial can take 90 days, even if the result is the same, a denial.
Appealing for an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing
If your claims is denied after being reconsidered, appealing for a full hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is the next step. While this stage is your best chance to reverse an earlier denial of your SSD claim, many disability applicants wait between 12 and 18 months for an ALJ hearing date.
At this hearing, you and your disability lawyer will be able to answer questions, present explanations, point to data or entries in reports that are important, and tell the judge in personal terms how you experience your disability. Human interaction makes this a very productive procedure.
The ALJ will write or dictate their decision and have it transcribed. Then they’ll review it for errors. If it is accurate, you will be notified of the ALJ’s approval or denial. On average, you will be notified of the hearing decision in about two months. Surveys show that approval decisions arrive about three week faster than news of a denial.
If your claim is denied again, or if you are granted benefits but your date of disability is not set as far in the past as you believe is fair, you can appeal the ALJ’s decision to the Appeals Council (AC) by filing a Request for Review of Hearing. At this stage, you cannot add to the evidence. The AC reviews the record of the hearing to check for errors.
Average SSD Claim Start to Finish Time
The time your claim will take to reach a final approval depends on how well your SSD lawyer prepared the claim package and how compelling the medical reports are. Working with an experienced SSD lawyer instead of someone who is not an expert in disability law can mean the difference between a case reaching approval in 6 – 9 months or your case taking as long as two years or more.
MJ Ellis Disability Law concentrates totally on disability law and the SSD claims of the community in Northern New Jersey and the surrounding area. Get the best prepared SSD claim package and the strongest advocacy backing up your disability application.
Contact MJ Ellis Disability Law for Free Consultation About Your Disability Claim
Call (973) 940-8635 or email firstname.lastname@example.org