SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
Social Security Disability and SSI Questions and Answers
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
More questions about SSD and SSI
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
How Long Will it Take To Get a Decision Letter from Social Security Disability?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
The wait time for a decision letter from Social Security varies based on the case in question. In general, those who are denied benefits receive their notice fairly quickly because they have to meet the 65-day deadline for filing an appeal.
There are two disability programs under which one may be approved for disability: Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In order to qualify for either, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that, due to his physical or mental impairment, he is unable to earn the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount each month (the current SGA limit).
However, those who have not worked enough to collect SSD (this program is available only to those who have worked and thus paid a certain dollar amount into the system over the years) must also be able to prove that they own assets with a total value of no more than $2,000 to qualify for SSI (not counting one car and one place of residence).
When someone applies for disability, their application is immediately evaluated by the Social Security office to see if they qualify for disability in either program. Depending upon his or her work history and total assets, an applicant may qualify for SSD, SSI, or both (this is called a concurrent disability claim).
However, regardless of which disability program the applicant is eligible to collect benefits from, the burden of proof regarding medical documentation is the same.
To collect either SSD or SSI, there must be solid medical evidence in the form of medical records from a licensed physician or psychologist, indicating 1) the patient has a severe impairment that is expected to endure for no less than 12 months, and 2) the impairment prevents him from being able to earn the SGA at any job he has performed in the past 15 years or any other job that someone with his work skills, education, etc., could switch to.
Most disability claims (about 70 percent) are denied at the initial application level, and most first appeals are unsuccessful as well (over 80%). However, if you are approved for SSD or SSI at either of these levels, you can expect to receive a notice of approval within a few days. Sometimes there is a bit of delay, particularly if matters such as workmans’ compensation, manual benefit computations, or capability development need to be factored into the decision.
The majority of disability applicants who are approved for disability must appeal not once, but twice. The second appeal is a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), and it is at this level that most claims are approved. If an ALJ grants your claim for disability, it generally takes a bit longer to receive a decision letter from Social Security. This is because the judge must write his or her decision before the claim can be processed at the payment center.
In addition, all claims granted either solely or concurrently under the SSI program are sent back to the local Social Security office for a final review called the PERC review. The PERC review is a final check to be sure that the disability applicant still meets the financial requirements for SSI, or, if the claim is concurrent, that the applicant is eligible to receive SSI during the mandatory 5-month waiting period that applies to those who collect SSD.
Return to: SSDRC, or the Social Security Disability Questions page