How Quickly Is The Disability Claim Decision Made?

It is impossible to determine how quickly a disability claim decision can be made. Social Security creates yearly case processing goals for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI disability) decisions. But while SSA strives to achieve timely processing goals, each claim is unique.

Some disability claims already have enough medical information in the file, thus enabling a faster decision to be made. However, most disability claims require the following to make a disability decision:

A) Medical record development (obtaining medical records can be very time consuming).

B) Consultative medical examinations that are scheduled--and paid--by Social Security (it takes time to get an appointment and receive the examination report from the consultative medical professional).

C) Activities of daily living questionnaires.

It takes longer to make a disability decision that requires extra development such as consultative examinations, or on disability claims in which medical treatment sources are slow to send medical records.

Also, it takes longer for disability cases that involve a recent heart attack or stroke, or eye surgery. If a disability claimant has had a heart attack or stroke, their claim is generally deferred and held for nearly ninety days before a decision can be made. Why? Social Security thinks an individual's maximum medical improvement can be assessed within ninety days of the medical incident.

Once a decision is made, the claim is returned to the disability applicant's local Social Security office for adjudication. In recent years, disability processing time has become a public relations issue for Social Security, especially at the administrative law judge hearing appeal level. Intense public scrutiny has prompted Social Security to improve claim processing time at all levels of the disability process from the initial disability claim level through the administrative law judge hearing level. However, the best way to reduce the wait time is to do the following:

1. If you have a serious medical impairment, do not "think" about filing for disability. Instead, get the claim filed and "in the pipeline" because, depending on any number of variables, wait times could lengthen at some point.

2. Do not wait until the end of an appeal file a disability appeal. In other words, even though social security gives you 60 days to file an appeal after you receive denial letter, you should not wait. You should get the appeal sent in immediately to reduce your total waiting time.

3. If you get scheduled for a social security medical examination, do not miss the appointment. Missing an appointment for a CE, or consultative exam, can add a month or more to the total processing time for your case.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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