Published on: December 7, 2022
Disability due to a medical condition and inability to work due to that condition can lead to financial difficulties and severe mental stress. However, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can help you manage such testing times. So, if you or a loved one is facing a disability, having a good understanding of the SSD benefits process is indispensable. Before you apply for SSD benefits, you must keep in mind that the process can be challenging and complicated. So, you need to be able to avoid any unreasonable delays.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not provide any specific timeline about the various stages of the Social Security Disability application process and the several factors that could lead to delays in getting approved for disability benefits. However, it takes an average time of three to five months for the SSA to decide your application and approve or deny benefits.
At Disability Experts of Florida, we have an in-depth understanding of the SSD benefits process and can help you avoid unnecessary delays.
Applying for SSD benefits
If you want to apply for disability benefits, you must meet the qualification criteria set by the SSA. The Social Security Administration runs two federal SSD programs called the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must meet the following three conditions-
- You have worked long enough at a job or through self-employment and paid enough into the Social Security system.
- You have a medical condition that renders you unable to work at your job or at some other job, and
- The disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.
On the other hand, the SSI is not a federal insurance program, but a needs-based program to help individuals having little to no income and financial resources available to pay the cost of food, shelter, and other necessities. You do not need a prior work history to qualify for SSI benefits.
SSD Benefits Process
On applying for SSD benefits, your application will be directed to a Social Security field office that will peruse it to verify if you meet the non-medical eligibility criteria for disability benefits like the income criteria and financial resources in the case of SSI, and employment history in the case of SSDI.
On meeting the non-medical eligibility criteria, your application is forwarded to the Disability Determination Service (DDS), a federal agency. The DDS determines whether you meet the medical eligibility criteria for disability benefits. The DDS will go through your medical records and documentation to determine whether you meet the medical eligibility criteria. The DDS is free to get a consultative examination done by your treating physician or by an independent healthcare professional. Thereafter, the SSA will decide if your application should be approved. This process is called initial disability determination.
Your initial disability determination should be completed within three to five months, but there are certain factors that may lead to delays-
- Time taken by healthcare professionals to communicate with the DDS for consultative examinations.
- Failure to attend consultative examinations held by the DDS as per the schedule set by the federal agency.
- Delay in responding to the DDS regarding information sought by the agency.
Time Taken At The Appeals Stage
If you get denied at the initial determination stage, you should not stop fighting for your benefits. Many applications do get denied at the initial determination stage, but you can pursue an appeal to challenge the denial. The appeal process follows the given timeline-
- Reconsideration request: This is the first stage of appeal in the disability process. The request will be assigned to a DDS examiner who was not involved with your initial application. It takes an average of 147 days to decide it.
- Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing: If the reconsideration request too gets denied, your case can be further appealed to an ALJ. Your appeal will be assigned to one of the hearing centers, which will take 5 to 15 months only for your appeal to come up for hearing.
- Hearing before Appeals Council: Hearing before the Appeals Council is the final stage in the disability determination process. At this stage, it takes around a year for your appeal to get decided.
Contact Disability Experts of Florida To Avoid Unnecessary Delays
At Disability Experts of Florida, a team of experienced SSD attorneys can help you navigate through the complex SSD process. We understand the complications involved in winning disability benefits and want to help you fight for the benefits you need and deserve. Consulting with us can help you avoid unnecessary delays in getting approved for benefits. If you or a loved one is battling a disability, contact us today for a free case review and consultation.