Social Security Disability RC

How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
Social Security Disability list of impairments
How to Qualify for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyers FAQ, Disability Back Pay

How Long Does It Take To Get Disability Benefits When You First File?

Initally disability claims, or applications for disability, are usually decided in under 120 days; though, occasionally some claims can be approved in under 30 days if the disability examiner has quick access to the medical evidence.

Reconsideration appeals--a request for reconsideration is the first appeal--are often faster since A) they involve the same process as an initial claim and B) the medical records, other than any new evidence which has recently come into existence, were previously gathered at the initial claim level. Due to these factors, the average time for a decision at this level is usually less than 60 days, though, as with a disability application a case can take longer or less time depending on various circumstances.

Disability hearings take the greatest amount of time since the wait for a hearing is often a year or longer, and a decision following a hearing can take months.

All this said, there is no decisive answer to this question since when a claimant will get disability benefits will depend on:

1) What level the claim was approved at (meaning at the disability application, reconsideration appeal, or disability hearing level)


2) Whether or not the case entailed processing issues such as the disability examiner encountering difficulty obtaining the claimant's medical records or having to schedule multiple consultative medical examinations, or having to defer the case because the claimant underwent a particular type of surgery, or suffered a myocardial infarction (heart attack) or cerebrovascular accident (stroke).

The disability process

The Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability process usually involves an initial disability claim and perhaps a series of appeals in order to be approved for disability benefits. A certain percentage of cases will, of course, not involve appeals. At any level of the system, a person can meet or equal the social security administration's disability criteria through a Social Security Disability impairment listing.

What is an impairment listing? In brief, Social Security has a disability handbook that contains impairment listings that address specific medical conditions. These are grouped and organized by body systems such as cardiovacular, muskuloskeletal, respiratory, etc. To be approved for disability on the basis of a listing, a claimant's medical records must provide information that is specified in the listing.

If a person is not approved by satisfying the requirements of a listing (most cases are not approved on the basis of a listing because the criteria is very specific and often difficult to meet), an approval can also be made through a medical vocational disability allowance if their condition causes significant limitations to their functional ability. Functional abilities relate to work activity but are as specific as the ability to sit, stand, or walk for lengths of time, lift objects of a certain weight, see and hear, communicate with others, learn and retain information, and so forth.

Medical vocational approvals are much more common than being awarded disability benefits on the basis of satisfying a listing. When a medical vocational decision is made, a disability examiner will consider an individualís RFC, or residual functional capacity (what someone is able to do in spite of their disabling condition) and compare this to their education, their history of past work, their age, and the potential transferability of their job skills to other work.

If the determination is made that the demands of the claimant's past work, and the demands of any other work that they might be considered capable of switching to, are too great when considering their remaining, or residual, functional capacity, they will be approved for disability benefits in either the Social Security Disability or SSI program, and in some cases in both programs.

Finally, aside from "meeting a listing" or receiving a medical-vocational approval (which basically means that an individual is unable to work at any of their past jobs, or switch to a new form of work), if an individual has a terminal condition their disability claim will not only be approved at the initial disability claim level, but the processing of the claim will be expedited to ensure that the individual is paid as soon as possible.

Rates of approval

The disability application, or initial claim, approval rate tends to average between thirty to thirty-five percent. The rate of approval varies by state, but on an average basis, this rate of approval has been extremely consistent for the last twenty years.

This, of course, means that approximately 70 percent of the people who file an initial disability claim will have to use the appeal process to pursue disability benefits following their initial claim denial.

The first appeal, the request for reconsideration typically has a higher rate of denial and, on average, 82-85 percent of these first appeals are also denied. The likely reason for this is that the reconsideration process is exactly the same as the process used to decide a disability application. In both instances, the case is handled by a disability examiner at the agency known as DDS, or disability determination services. Though a different disability examiner will handle the reconsideration, both this examiner and the examiner who worked on the initial claim use the same process. Very often, they will be located in adjoining units, or right down the hall from one another. All things considered, it is not even slightly surprising that most reconsideration appeals are also denied.

At the disability hearing, the process changes substantially and so does the rate of approval. At a hearing, the primary responsibility for gathering updated medical records will fall to the claimant and their disability attorney if they have one. The claimant will actually meet the decision-maker, in this case a federal judge. And the claimant and their attorney will have full opportunity to present arguments and evidence as to why the case should be approved. Represented claimants at disability hearings often win their cases more than 60 percent of the time--meaning that the majority of individuals who are denied at the disability application level will eventually be approved if they do not give up on pursuing their claim.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

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Social Security Disability SSI Questions

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Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

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Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

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Related pages:

How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security Disability?
How long does it take to get a decision on Social Security Disability or SSI?
How Long Does It Take To Get Disability Benefits When You First File?
How long will it take to start getting disability benefits after you have received an award notice?
How Long Can You Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?
How long does it take to appeal a disability case?
How long does it take for the disability decision in North Carolina?
How long does it take to receive North Carolina disability benefits after you are approved?
How Long Will It Take For A Decision Letter For Social Security Disability?
Applying for Disability in Missouri
Will I qualify for SSI disability in Missouri?
Applying for SSI benefits in Missouri

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.