How long does the SSD application process take?
The process can be quick or can seem very slow. It depends on whether we are able to get you Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits quickly. The first step in the process is the initial application stage.
Generally, it takes about 3 to 5 months for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make a decision after it receives all of your medical records. However, the exact time depends on how long it takes for SSA to get your medical records and any other evidence needed to make a decision. After SSA has your records, it sends your records and application to a state agency that makes disability decisions.
If SSA denies your initial application, you must request reconsideration. Like the initial application, it takes about 3 to 5 months for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make a decision on reconsideration.
In general, reconsideration is almost always denied. From there, you must request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which is the part of the process where most applicants with attorneys have the best chance of winning their claims. A hearing is a review of your claim by an ALJ, who did not take part in the initial or reconsideration determination.
Requesting an ALJ Hearing on Your Social Security Disability Claim
After you submit your request for a hearing, your local SSA office will send your request for a hearing to a local hearing office. Our office and you then receive information from the hearing office about the hearing process, and a notice when your hearing has been scheduled. After you request a hearing, the wait time can vary enormously based on the particulars of your case and where you live. According to the most recent SSA data available, the average for individual hearing offices ranges from 5 to 15 months; we have seen delays of up to 24 months, particularly during the pandemic.
What happens at an SSD or SSI ALJ hearing?
The SSA ALJ is required to send written notice of a scheduled hearing date at least 75 days in advance. You can waive this notice, which may reduce your wait time, but you will still be bound by SSA rules on submitting any evidence for your claim ahead of your hearing. Thus, we try to prepare for your hearing from the date we submit your request for an ALJ hearing.
During the hearing, the ALJ explains the issues in your case and may question you and any witnesses you bring to the hearing. The ALJ asks other witnesses to attend the hearing. For example, during a hearing about whether a person is disabled, the Administrative Law Judge may ask a medical expert or vocational expert to testify. You and the witnesses answer questions under oath or affirmation. Our office is accustomed to the hearing process and we will ask questions to help prove why you are entitled to SSD or SSI benefits. The ALJ hearing is informal, but SSA makes an audio recording of the hearing. You and your representative, if you have one, may question any witnesses who may be present at the hearing.
What happens after the SSD or SSI ALJ hearing?
After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge issues a written decision based on all the evidence. The hearing office then mails a copy of the decision to you and your representative, if you have one. In our experience, it can take 60 to 90 days to receive the ALJ’s written decision.