If you appeal a Social Security Disability denial, how long does it take to receive a decision?

If you appeal your case after receiving a denial, the time frame for a new disability claim decision will be determined by which level of appeal your case is at. The reconsideration appeal, the first appeal, involves a review of your initial disability claim denial by a disability examiner who was not a part of the original decision. All the medical evidence from your initial disability claim and any new medical evidence provided with your reconsideration appeal will be evaluated.

Decision wait times at the reconsideration and hearing levels

Because your claim will not necessarily start from scratch, most reconsideration appeal decisions will be received in sixty days or less. However, this is not always the case. Processing time can be less, or more, depending on the disability case itself. Obviously, if Social Security has to secure new medical evidence or schedule one or more consultative examinations, it could take longer for you to receive your reconsideration appeal decision.

If your reconsideration appeal is denied (current statistical information suggests that only 10-15 percent of all reconsideration appeals are an approval for disability benefits), you must file for your second appeal, a request for hearing before an administrative law judge, or ALJ, if you wish to pursue your disability claim.

While disability hearing wait times have improved over the past couple of years, there is still a substantial wait for a disability hearing after a hearing request has been submitted. Social Security Disability hearing wait times are running between five and fifteen months, depending on the hearing office.

What happens at a disability hearing?

The administrative law judge hearing involves a review of your disability file along with any new information (i.e. medical or vocational) provided by you or your disability representative. The actual disability hearing can be done either in person at your area hearings office or in some areas by video conference.

Comparatively speaking, a disability hearing is somewhat informal. Generally, the disability hearing is conducted around a conference table. The only people in attendance are the judge, you, your representative or attorney, and perhaps medical and/or vocational experts. Some administrative law judges prefer to ask you questions, while others prefer that your disability attorney or representative ask you questions about your disabling condition or conditions. It does not matter who asks the questions, just make sure to be honest and very specific with regard to your functional limitations.

Although the wait time for a disability hearing is long, it is still the best chance you have of being approved for disability benefits if you have received denials at the disability application and request for reconsideration appeal levels. Administrative law judges have far more flexibility when making their disability decisions; therefore their approval rate is higher. Administrative law judges often approve over sixty percent of their disability cases.

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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