Published on: July 22, 2020
If you’re a Florida resident who recently filed for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through the SSA, and have since received a denial letter, don’t give up hope. In fact, about 67% of initial disability claims are denied. That being said, the disability benefits process does not stop there. By opting for a Social Security disability appeal, you can pursue your application through the Social Security process, and hopefully receive the benefits you deserve for your condition.
The same can be said if you have recently had your monthly benefit amount adjusted or terminated. The SSA normally conducts continuing disability reviews as often as once a year if your condition is expected to improve. There are therefore certain factors that the SSA may overlook during a review, resulting in an erroneous adjustment or termination.
By filing a timely Social Security disability appeal after your rate adjustment or termination, you can contest the changes made and have your rates reconsidered by the SSA. How long does this process take for Florida residents? Learn more about the Social Security disability appeal time frame in Florida and what steps can you carry out to ensure that your appeal is successful.
How Long Does a Disability Appeal Take?
When you want to apply for a Social Security disability benefits appeal, you must apply for Request for Reconsideration, the first stage of the appeals process. This request allows applicants to potentially have a hearing before an administrative law judge and have the initial denial decision overturned. Once you receive your initial determination (the SSA’s decision for your first disability application), you will be granted 60 days to file a request for Reconsideration with Social Security.
Once your Social Security appeal form is completed and submitted, the next step in the process is the hearing stage where most applicants receive benefits. However, remember that it will take time. In Florida, you will have to wait an estimated 376 to 682 days for your disability hearing. After your hearing, you’ll receive the administrative judge’s decision regarding your claim between another 45 to 90 days as well.
However, you also don’t want to rush the appeals process. You have already been denied once. Before submitting an appeal for disability, consider contacting a disability consultant who is trained in Florida disability benefits applications and appeals. Hiring a disability expert to oversee your appeal can strengthen your claim, improve your evidence submission and possibly expedite your case with online filing of your appeal.
How Does the Appeal Process In Florida Work?
The Florida appeals process is similar to other states. There are four steps in the entire appeals process:
- Request for Reconsideration
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing
- Appeals Council Review
- A U.S. Federal Court Hearing.
Most disability appeals go up to the administrative law judge hearing, so don’t be intimidated by the prospect of your appeal being denied at the Reconsideration stage. About 67% of appeals in front of an ALJ are successful.
For current benefit recipients appealing an adjusted rate, filing an appeal within 10 days will allow those individuals to retain their previous benefit amount through the duration of the appeals process. As appeal waiting times can take months appealing within this window can have significant implications on income.
Average Wait Times for an Appeals in Florida
The average wait times for a Social Security disability appeal in Florida depends on the SSA office. The Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) manages Social Security disability appeal hearings. The OHO offices in Florida are as follows:
Fort Lauderdale, FL, OHO Office
The Fort Lauderdale OHO office is responsible for disability hearings for the Belle Glade, Cocoa Beach, Delray Beach, Ft. Lauderdale (East & West), Melbourne, North Broward, Port St. Lucie, South Broward, Vero Beach, and West Palm Beach SSA offices. The average wait time to schedule a hearing is 376 days.
Fort Myers, FL, OHO Office
The Fort Myers OHO office handles the hearings of the Fort Myers, Naples, and Port Charlotte Social Security offices. Average wait time here is around 330 days.
Jacksonville, FL OHO Office
Services in DeLand, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Lake City, Palatka, and St. Augustine. Average time to wait for a disability hearing is 436 days.
Miami, FL, OHO Office
The Miami OHO office is responsible for appeals hearings for the Florida Keys, Allapattah, Hialeah, Key West, Little Havana, Little River, Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, and Monroe County and Perrine areas. The average wait time for a hearing at the Miami office is 547 days.
Mobile, AL, OHO Office
This office in Alabama handles disability hearings for the Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola SSA offices in Florida. Average time to wait is 438 days.
Orlando, FL, OHO Office
The Orlando Office serves the Lake Mary, Leesburg, Kissimmee, Ocala, and Orlando SSA offices. Average processing time is about 500 days.
St. Pete, FL, OHO Office
The OHO office in St. Petersburg is responsible for St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Clearwater, Pinellas Park, as well as Sarasota, Venice, and New Port Richey. It takes this OHO office over a year to process disability hearings.
Tallahassee, FL, OHO Office
This office serves the Marianna, Panama City, Quincy, and Tallahassee SSA offices. It takes this office a little less than a year to process hearings applications.
Tampa, FL, OHO Office
The Tampa location services disability hearings for the Dade City, Sebring, Tampa, Valrico, Winter Haven, and Carrollwood areas. Average processing time is about 680 days.
Steps in the Entire Appeals Process
As previously mentioned, the SSA appeals process is broken down into 4 main levels, each with their own determination processes and proceedings.
During the Reconsideration stage, applicants or current recipients will be given a period of 60 days to appeal their determination, and request a review of their file in addition to any new documentation or medical reporting. Most decisions are delivered within eight weeks.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing
Mirroring reconsideration appeals, applicants or current beneficiaries will be granted 60 days to request a hearing. During this hearing, new evidence may be presented for your claim, and benefit payments may continue as long as they are requested in writing within 10 days of termination or adjustment of your benefits.
During your hearing, the ALJ may request witness testimony from medical experts and treatment providers regarding your condition. When there is evidence of how your condition has not improved even after seeking treatment, the ALJ is more likely to view your condition as severe enough for benefits.
If you have still been denied benefits in your Social Security disability hearing, you may request a review by an Appeals Council within 60 days in order to overturn the ALJ’s decision. Overviewing new evidence and documentation, the council will decide to either grant or dismiss your review request. If approved for review, the Appeals Council will either overturn the ALJ decision and approve your claim or send it back to the ALJ for a supplemental hearing.
It’s important to note the Appeals Council is also a lengthy step, and it often takes about 345 days on average to review an appeal.
If you disagree with the determination of the Appeals Council, you may take added measure by filing a civil action with the U.S. District Court. This must be filed within 60 days of the Appeals Council determination. The U.S. Federal Court decision can also take a long time, with most applicants having to wait up to 12 months for a decision.
Don’t give up on your benefits just because the SSA review board turns you down! With a disability export by your side, the Social Security disability appeals process does not need to be so overwhelming since they can be your guides the entire way. Contact a disability professional right away to help you overturn initial determinations and get the SSDI compensation you have waited so long for.