How Long Does it Take To Get An Answer On A Social Security Application For Disability?

Once you file a Social Security application for disability, it is sent to a state disability agency for an initial disability determination.

When cases involve terminal conditions

If an applicant's disability application is based upon a terminal condition, there are special handling guidelines in place to process their disability claim quickly.

Disability applications based on terminal conditions are usually processed to completion in thirty days or less, so that the applicant will receive their disability benefits as soon as possible. Social Security has also created the quick disability determination (QDD) process which analyzes key data contained in the disability file. This analysis is used to predict which disability cases involve an applicant with a high probability of being disabled.

Lastly, Social Security uses the compassionate allowance process to approve individuals with various cancers, ALS, Tay Sachs, and a multitude of other severe medical conditions quickly. There are eighty-eight impairments that qualify for the compassionate allowance process.

Most cases, which are not terminal

While these processes help disability applicants with the most severe medical conditions, they are not available to all who file an application for disability with Social Security. Most applicants have to wait about three to four months for a decision to be made, because the disability determination process can take time.

Once an applicant's disability file is received by the state disability processing agency, it is assigned to an examiner. The disability examiner has to review the file to determine if there is enough current medical evidence in the file to make a disability determination.

While Social Security Disability examiners like to have at least a twelve month treatment history for an applicant's disabling condition or conditions, they can make only make a determination on the medical evidence in file if there is at least some evidence that is no more than ninety days old. They will still request medical records from all the medical sources listed in the file, however if the records are not current they may still have to use a consultative examination to get current medical evidence for the applicant.

Social Security routinely sets goals to increase the speed at which disability applications are processed. Unfortunately, it takes time to get all the necessary evidence needed to make a disability determination--especially if consultative examinations are involved. Coupled with a dramatic increase in disability applications across the country, it is not difficult to see why it takes so long to receive a disability decision.

If you file an application for disability with Social Security, you should be prepared for a wait unless you have a condition that might qualify for one of the streamline processes designed to help those with the most severe medical impairments.

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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