Can an SSI or SSDI disability claim take five years to complete?

An individual on a website seemed to believe this was the case, that an SSI disability claim typically takes five years. Is this true?

With the backlogs that exist today at the disability hearing level, it may take, start to finish, about three years and may stretch out to nearly four years. However, this time frame depends on a number of different factors:

1. Did the claimant get denied on a disability application?

2. Did the claimant likewise get denied on a reconsideration request?

3. Did the claimant request a disability hearing?

4. Does the claimant reside in a part of the country where the local hearing office has a substantial backlog?

There are, of course, other mediating factors. There are some claimants who seem to stay stuck in the disability sytem for five years or longer. But sometimes this happens because a claimant will repeatedly file new disability applications instead of filing appeals. Usually, of course, a claimant who does this will simply get denied again and again.

Also, there are cases in which a claimant may get denied at the initial claim level, get denied at the reconsideration level, request a hearing, get denied at the hearing and then start over again and complete the entire process a second time.

In some cases, this happens when a claimant is not represented. In other cases, a represented claimant may have been advised that an appeals council remand is unlikely to occur (the appeals council is the third appeal level in the system and the appeals council may reverse a judge's denial or require the judge to hear the case again at a remanded hearing), thus making it necessary to start the process all over again.

Generally speaking, however, claimants who are A. not approved at the initial claim or reconsideration level and B. request a disability hearing will spend about three years "in the system" fighting to win disability benefits from social security.

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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