How Long Does It Take To Get Disability Approval Letter?

Published on: August 19, 2022

When you are disabled and unable to work, financial challenges may cause stress and anxiety. Social Security disability benefits can help relieve financial pressures, but it takes time before you receive a decision from the Social Security Administration on an initial application or appeal.

According to the SSA, getting a decision on an application for benefits can take from three to five months. The Social Security estimate does not account for factors that may delay the time it takes to get a disability approval letter. 

Learning more about the determination process that your claim for disability benefits goes through may ease some of the anxiety as you wait for a decision. Consulting with and hiring an experienced disability advocate gives you a disability expert that you can rely upon to do whatever is possible to expedite the approval process for you. 

What is the Social Security decision-making process?

 The SSA has two disability programs: Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance. The SSI program is for people who have little to no income and financial resources available to pay the cost of food, shelter, and other basic needs. The SSDI program is for people who paid Social Security taxes on income earned through at a job or through self-employment for a long enough duration to qualify for benefits under the program. 

When you apply for either SSI or SSDI, the application is received by a Social Security field office that reviews it to verify non-medical eligibility, such as income and resources of SSI applicants and employment history of SSDI applicants. The applications then go to a Disability Determination Service office, which is an agency in each state funded by the federal government. 

The Disability Determination Service office that receives your application reviews it to determine if you meet the medical criteria to qualify for either SSI or SSDI. It does this by using your medical records and, if necessary, by arranging for a consultative examination, which can be performed by the physician who treated you or by an independent health care professional. The DDS staff then decides whether to approve or deny the claim. This is known as the initial disability determination. 

Although Social Security estimates the time for you to receive notice of an initial disability determination as being between three to five months, factors that may cause a delay to include: 

  • The time it takes for hospitals and other health care providers to respond to DDS requests for copies of your medical records.
  • Missing appointments for a consultative examination that DDS arranged for you.
  • Failing to respond to requests by DDS for information about the application or to schedule a consultative examination. 

A disability advocate ensures that notices from Social Security are responded to in a timely manner and that you do not miss appointments for consultative examinations. Your disability expert also works with your medical providers to expedite the delivery of medical records that support your claim for benefits to increase the chance of winning your claim for benefits and obtaining a disability approval letter. 

The time it takes to get disability benefits at different appeal levels

 If the initial disability determination denies your claim for benefits, you may appeal the decision. The time it takes to get disability benefits depends on the level your claim is at in the appeal process. 

The first level is reconsideration, which assigns your claim to an examiner in the DDS office who was not involved in the initial determination. The examiner goes through the case file and may request additional medical evidence if needed. According to the SSA, 147 days is the average time it takes to decide on a reconsideration request and generate a letter advising you of the decision. 

If you do not get disability benefits after a reconsideration request, your disability advocate may take your appeal to the next level by requesting a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). The request results in your claim being assigned to one of several hearing centers located throughout the country. It can take from five months to 15 months just to receive a hearing date depending on how busy a hearing center happens to be. 

If you do not get a disability approval level at the hearing level, the next level in the appeal process is a review by the Appeals Council. It takes about a year for a decision letter, but if it is not favorable, your next appeal level is a lawsuit in federal court, which can take quite a while before there is an outcome.

Get help to avoid unnecessary delays

Disability Experts of Florida have specialized for more than 35 years in helping claimants receive the SSDI and SSI benefits they deserve through skilled representation and trusted advice and guidance. The assistance of one of our disability advocates ensures that your application is complete, accurate, and supported by the medical evidence to meet the eligibility standards used by Social Security. Contact us now for a free consultation to learn how we can help you get disability benefits.

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