Applying for Disability Benefits

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be a lengthy and time-consuming legal process. Having correct documentation and information is essential for filing a successful claim. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires that a disability be proven and that it prevents an applicant for benefits from being able to work for more than 12 months.

What kind of information does the Social Security Administration require?

In order to receive benefits, the nature of the disability requires medical documentation and must be very specific in explaining how the disability prevents an applicant from being able to work. This includes medical records and diagnoses, treatment history, test results such as x-rays or MRI scans, emergency room visits and hospital stays, and any physician notes on your condition.

The claim for Social Security Disability benefits must also include non-medical information such as proof of identification and age, as well as accurate and up to date employment history. Since the application process requires considerable detail, even an eligible applicant can find their initial application denied for missing or incomplete information. A lawyer experienced with SSDI can help make sure that your claim has all the necessary information.

SSDI Timeline

How long does it take to get a response on my claim from the SSA?

In general, it takes roughly 5 months for an initial application to receive a decision from the SSA on your Social Security Disability claim. Every case is different so sometimes it can take longer.

SSDI Appeals

My application for disability benefits was denied. Can I appeal?

Roughly two-thirds of all SSDI applications are initially denied by the SSA. If your claim for disability benefits is denied, you have 60 days to appeal the decision. There are four levels of the appeals process so if an initial appeal is denied there are additional opportunities to challenge the denial of Social Security benefits. This can be lengthy process and last as long as two years depending on the case.

How long does it take for a disability claim to be appealed?

If your initial disability claim is denied you have 60 days from the denial of benefits to file an appeal for Reconsideration and it could take from 3 to 6 months to get a response from the SSA.

The next phase if the Reconsideration is denied is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The appeal must be filed within 60 days and getting a date for the hearing can take roughly 9 to 16 months. Following the hearing it can take anywhere from 3 weeks up to 3 months to get a decision from the ALJ.

If the ALJ denies the appeal you have 60 days to bring the matter before the Appeals Council. This process can take up to another year and a half before a decision is made.

The last opportunity to appeal a denial of disability benefits if the Appeals Council rejects your appeal is to file a lawsuit in Federal Court. The appeal must again be filed within 60 days and receiving a final decision from the court could in some cases take up to one year or more.

Back Pay And Retroactive Pay

How long does it take to get my Social Security disability benefits if I'm approved?

During the time between the initial disability benefits application up until the first payment is received, an applicant will often accumulate debt if they are unable to work or work full time.

The SSA does offer back pay for the for the time period during which the claim was pending approval. The payment will often be paid in a lump sum, which can help alleviate the debt that had been accumulated by the applicant.

If the Social Security Disability claim is approved, then installments of back pay generally begin within 60 days after the date of approval. While the Social Security Administration considers a disability to have begun at the time the application was filed, they do not pay the applicant for the first 5 months following the onset of the disability or time of application. So when the back pay is finally paid, it will not include the first five months of the disabilities occurrence.

Is retroactive pay the same as back pay? When does it get paid?

The difference between back pay and retroactive pay is that back pay is dated from the time the application is filed, which the SSA considers onset of the disability but retroactive pay is for the time before the applicant filed for SSDI.

To receive retroactive pay it is necessary for the applicant to prove to the SSA that the disability existed before the date that the application was filed. If this can be done, the SSA will pay retroactive benefits up to twelve months prior to the application date. The 5-month holdback still applies to retroactive disability pay.

If the SSA determines that an applicant became disabled one year prior to the filing of the application, the applicant will receive 7 months of retroactive pay. If the applicant is found to have been disabled for 17 months or more prior to the date of application, they will receive 12 months of retroactive pay. As with back pay, retroactive payments are usually made within 60 days of approval.

Legal Representation

Can a lawyer help with my initial claim for Social Security Disability benefits or with an appeal?

This process can be stressful on an individual who has become disabled due to illness or injury. Having the right legal representation for a Social Security Disability claim can increase the likelihood of a successful application for SSDI benefits or a successful appeal for an application that was initially denied. A lawyer experienced with disability law will know how to prepare an application that will meet the required SSA criteria for receiving a positive response for SSDI benefits.

Given the amount of time it can take to get a disability claim approved and strong possibility you may need to appeal, having an experienced disability attorney who knows the social security disability system can shorten the SSDI timeline by making sure that the correct forms and information that prove your eligibility for benefits get to the SSA on time.

If you plan on filing a disability benefits claim and are wondering what to expect, contact us today for more information and a free evaluation!

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