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SSDRC Disability Blog

Why does a disability claim take so long and is it harder if I am under age 55?

Someone recently asked the following question:

Why does it take so long and why they don't want to grant it to me because I'm not 55.

To be honest, claims have always taken a very long time. This has been true ever since I was a disability examiner in the 90's and I am sure it was the case before then. As to why, there are at least two reasons: first of all, the time it takes to process a Social Security Disability or SSI claim is directly affected by how long it takes to get the medical records gathered from all the sources that have been indicated by a claimant at the time of application. And that can be a matter of weeks and sometimes even months.

However, even when the records have come in, there are often issues that come up in the processing of a case:
  • Will there be a need to send the claimant to a consultative medical exam (which can be physical or mental, or both)?
  • Has the claimant had a recent surgery that requires deferring action on the case until the claimant's response has been assessed?
  • Is there difficulty in obtaining either medical or vocational, or even educational information necessary to adjudicate the claim.
Every claim is different and sometimes a variety of issues come up.

However, in most cases, the amount of time to process a decision has to do with how long it takes to get all the medical evidence together. Examiners will request records from treatment sources usually on the first day they are assigned a case, and often they will have to do multiple followups with the hospital or practice in question. I can remember many instances of having to resend the same request for records several times. That slows cases down.

And, of course, there is the fact that most claims will be denied at the initial claim/application level. That then means having to file one or more appeals. The first appeal, the reconsideration, can take several months. But the second appeal, the hearing request, can take up to a year or longer before a hearing is granted.

Now, as to the second issue of whether or not Social Security will grant benefits to someone who is under the age of 55---younger individuals routinely win disability benefits. But, the medical vocational rules do make it a bit easier for those who are 55 or older to be awarded. Age, educational level, work skills, and one's residual functional capacity are all taken into consideration. And this is because SSA assumes that an older individual who cannot go back to their past work may face more of a challenge in being able to switch to some type of other work.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

How long will it take to start getting disability benefits after you have received an award notice?
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
How Long Does It Take To Get Disability Benefits When You First File?
How long does it take to get a decision on Social Security disability or SSI?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
How Long Will It Take To Get Approved for Disability and what determines this?

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

How do I check the status of my Social Security disability claim?
Can you get temporary Social Security disability or SSI benefits?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
The Difference Between Social Security Disability (SSD) and SSI How are they different Part II