Is Social Security required to make a decision on a disability case in a certain time period?

The simple answer to this question is that Social Security Disability and SSI do not have deadline processing goals, but there are no mandates with regard to processing time. Social Security does not have an absolute time period for claims processing, because there are many reasons the decision on a disability claim can be delayed.

Claimants themselves cause some case processing delays. For example, if a claimant does not provide necessary information (i.e. activities of daily living questionnaires or work activity forms) timely, or fail to return needed medical release or disability forms, or a correct address and phone (needed so they can be reached to schedule need medical consultative examinations), their disability case will take longer to receive a decision.

Additionally, disability claimants cause delays by missing or rescheduling consultative examination appointments. All of these things cause more processing time, thereby extending the time it takes to make a disability decision.

There are also delays in case processing that can be attributed to Social Security. Claims representatives are sometimes slow in getting disability claims to state disability agencies. Sometimes state disability agencies (usually known as DDS, or disability determination services, this is where disability examiners work) take more time to make their disability decisions due to dramatically increasing disability caseloads and lack of staffing.

Certainly, it is advisable to check on the status of your disability claim periodically to make sure that it is being processed. There is always the chance the disability decision has been made and for some reason you have not received your decisional notice.

Currently, the average case processing time for a disability claim decision is about one hundred days, while reconsideration appeals take about sixty days for a decision. Disability cases at the hearing appeal level have the longest processing time because of the wait for a disability hearing. Disability claimants are often waiting a year or more to get their hearings.

Disability case processing times have become a public relations issue for Social Security, so they are constantly trying to streamline the disability process so that disability decisions can be made in a more reasonable time period even if the disability case is at the hearing office.

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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