How long does it take to start receiving Social Security benefits after applying?

How long is it to receive disability benefits after you apply?

There is truly is no set amount of time to start receiving benefits after applying for disability. Processing time is affected by the facts of each disability claim. And, of course, it really depends on whether a person is approved after applying for disability, or if they are eventually approved after A) being denied for disability, and B) filing one or more disability appeals.

How long does each step take? There is no easy answer to the question because not every case is the same, and Social Security does not have deadlines for how long a case will take. Having said that, there is a very strong emphasis on getting decisions made as quickly as possible. In fact, disability examiners who make decisions on claims are rated on how quickly they can get cases processed to a decision.

In general, a disability application will usually have a decision made in 90 to 120 days. If the disability application is denied and a reconsideration appeal is filed, that decision may take another 30-90 days. And if a hearing by an ALJ (administrative law judge) is needed, the wait will be nothing short of extreme. Getting a hearing date can easily take at least a year. And, of course, if a person is approved by a judge at a disability hearing, it can still take a number of weeks or months for a payment center to get a person's benefits started.

Are there faster ways to get disability (see How can you speed up a Social Security Disability case? and Can a disability attorney speed up my disability case? By What Methods?)? Potentially, yes. If your case seems to be taking too long, you can contact your congressman to have a congressional inquiry done. This can sometimes speed things up a bit. Also, if you have a medical condition that is one of the conditions on the compassionate allowance list (currently, there are 226 of these), your case may be expedited.

Other ways to have a case speeded up, or expedited, is by having them identified for QDD, or quick disability determination, processing. This is done by an automated algorithm to identify disability cases that have conditions and other factors likely to lead to a quick disability approval.

Finally, if you have a terminal condition, Social Security has the goal of making a decision in the claim in under 30 days.

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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