How Long Does a Social Security Disability Appeal Take?
You shouldn’t be too surprised if your Social Security Disability application is denied. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a majority of claims (64%) are denied from the initial application. If you become one of these statistics, you can either give up or begin the appeals process to try to secure the benefits that you believe you are owed.
Unfortunately, the Social Security Disability (SSD) appeals process is neither simple nor quick. Depending on how far you have to go to get an approval for benefits, your appeal could take anywhere from several months to over a year. One of the reasons for this is because there are several levels to the appeals process.
The Many SSD Appeals Steps
First, it’s not possible to put an exact time limit on a Social Security decision because the agency doesn’t provide these specifics. Many initial decisions are processed within 90-120 days, but all cases are different since some medical conditions are easier to verify than others. If you do receive a denial of benefits, there are four levels of appeals:
- Reconsideration (in applicable states)
- Administrative Law Judge
- Appeals Council
- Federal Court
Request for Reconsideration
In many states you must file a Request for Reconsideration if SSA denies your initial application. When a Request for Reconsideration is filed, a different examiner will review your case, including any additional documentation that you present. A majority of these decisions are also denials, and these can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks to be delivered. At the present time, this step is not required in Alabama.
Administrative Law Judge Hearing
In Alabama, if your initial application is denied, you only have 60 days to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
If you are required to file a Request of Reconsideration and it is denied, then your next step would be to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The request for a hearing must be filed within 60 days of your Request for Reconsideration being denied.
This hearing gives you the opportunity to argue your case in person in front of an Administrative Law Judge. You can present evidence that proves your disability and the Administrative Law Judge may even call witnesses to review your medical records and testify as to the merits of your claim. One of the biggest hurdles with this step in the process is the wait time. Expect to wait as long as 12-24 months to receive a hearing date with an Administrative Law Judge.
Appeals Council Review
If you are still denied benefits, you have 60 days to request the next step, which is a review by an Appeals Council. The Appeals Council can do one of three things. It can overturn the Administrative Law Judge’s decision and approve your claim, it can send your claim back to the Administrative Law Judge for further review and/or another hearing or it can agree with the Administrative Law Judge’s decision. This is a lengthy process that can take as long as 12 – 18 months to complete.
The last available appeal is at the federal court level. If you don’t agree with the Appeals Council review decision, you can file a civil action through the U.S. District Court. Again, you have 60 days to do this and may have to wait as long as 12 to 18 months for an outcome.
Other Factors That Can Impact the Length of an Appeal
The time periods provided are just guidelines based on past experience. Another factor that might impact the length of time for any of these appeals is the backlog present at the SSA at the time. If the SSA has an influx of appeals cases or is short staffed, you will have to wait longer.
Your appeal can also take longer if the materials that you submit are unclear or incomplete. This is why it is vital that you do everything possible to speed up this process while you have control. The best way to do this is to work with a qualified disability attorney.
Discuss Your Case with an Alabama Disability Attorney
The Montgomery Social Security Administration attorneys at The Dansby Law Firm, P.C., understand the complexities associated with SSD and SSI claims. If you are disabled and believe that you are eligible for these benefits, you may not want to deal with the additional stress and strain that it takes to apply for and go through several rounds of appeals with the SSA.
Contact our office now at 1-877-834-7001 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation. We never charge a fee unless we recover benefits for you.