Social Security Disability Status - when should I call to check
If you have to file for disability with the Social Security Administration and after a number of weeks or months hear nothing about your claim, the question quickly becomes: "Can you find out the status of your disability claim?"
Once you file your Social Security Disability claim, you should expect not to hear anything for a while. Your disability claim is sent by the Social Security office where you filed to DDS, or disability determination services. Once your claim arrives at DDS, it is assigned to a disability examiner who then requests medical records from the medical treatment sources you provided at the disability application interview.
The examiner also sends out questionnaires to both you and your third-party person contact person (these questionnaires address your ability to perform your normal daily activities), and schedules consultative medical examinations when needed. As you might imagine, it takes some time to get all the information necessary to make the disability decision.
When to call for a status update
Generally, you will be contacted by a disability examiner within a few weeks of filing your claim. This is because, during the processing of your case, the examiner will often have questions about one or more of your medical treatment sources, some aspect of your work history, or will need to gather additional information about the daily activities that you engage in.
If your disability claim requires a consultative examination (usually, a CE, or consultative exam, is ordered when your records show that you have not been seen by a medical professional within the last 90 days), you may hear from the examiner even sooner. If you have not received any contact in a few weeks, of course, it is, at that point, not a bad idea to check the status of your disability claim.
This can be done by contacting your local Social Security office where you filed, by calling the toll free Social Security number, or by calling the disability examiner working on your case. Unfortunately, the toll free line is a poor source of information and, even worse, is often a source of incorrect information, so it is not advisable to use it. Calling the Social Security field office is not much more productive since the only answer they will be able to give you with regard to the status of your case is that the case is still pending, or undecided. The most productive option is to call the office that is actually working on your SSD or SSI claim.
Where to call for a status update
If your disability claim is currently pending at the initial claim (disability application) or reconsideration appeal levels, your case will be at DDS. The number for the state disability agency, known in most states as Disability Determination Services (DDS), can be obtained by contacting your local Social Security office.
When you call the number for DDS, you will be asked your social security number and then connected to the disability examiner who is handling your case. If the examiner is available, they will be able to quickly give you a status update. However, one of the advantages of calling for your status is that the examiner may use this opportunity to pull your file and gather additional information from you if it is needed. Your case may even be finished that day if it turns out the examiner was waiting for the opportunity to obtain last-needed information from you before deciding the claim.
If your disability claim is pending at the disability hearing level, meaning that a request for hearing was previously submitted, there is not necessarily a need to be concerned if you do not hear anything for several months. Currently, disability claimants are waiting anywhere from five to fifteen months to be scheduled for a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Having said this, though, it is still a good idea to call for the status of your hearing request at least once. This is simply to ensure that the Social Security office did, in fact, receive the hearing appeal that either you or you disability lawyer submitted and, secondly, to ensure that the hearing request resulted in the case being transferred from the Social Security office to the hearing office, known officially as ODAR, the office of Adjudication and Review.
If your case is pending at the hearing office, you or your attorney can contact your local Social Security office or the hearing office to check the status of your disability claim. Again, it is usally better to contact the office that is actually working on the claim. In this case, that would be the hearing office. And, once again, this contact number can be obtained from the Social Security office.
Status updates can help to avoid problems
There is no 'correct' time to check the status of a disability claim, so you can get the status of your disability claim any time you wish to do so. There are times, though, when disability decision letters and hearing notification letters are lost in the mail. For this reason, it is not a bad idea to sporadically check the status of your disability claim. You may even find that there has been a decision made or a hearing has been scheduled.
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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