What is the average amount of time it takes for a disability decision after filing?
The average amount of time it takes to receive a decision after filing for SSD benefits, also referred to as SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) benefits is about 120 days, or approximately three months. This is also holds true for most SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, claims, as both SSD and SSI claims are evaluated by a Social Security Disability examiner in the state disability determination agency, to whom it will make absolutely no difference which program a claim is filed under (there are differences in the financial qualifications that must be met under each program, but these are determined by the social security administration at the federal level).
However, keep in mind that three months is only a statistical average, and this timeframe does not apply to each individual case. Some cases (not the majority) are decided within a month, while others may take more than a year. Why are some cases decided relatively quickly, while others drag on for months?
There are two major factors that influence the amount of time it takes for a disability claimant to receive a decision from disability determination services (DDS).
One is the completeness of the medical and work histories provided to the disability examiner, and the other is the disability process itself, which may require more information in the form of additional medical tests, a consultative exam (CE), interviews with coworkers or relatives regarding an individual's daily activities, etc., before a determination can be made as to the claimant's ability to work in spite of his or her condition (i.e.residual functional capacity).
In order to ensure that your case moves along as quickly as possible, it is important to provide the most complete medical and work history possible right at the start, including all names, addresses, and contact information of work supervisors and past treating physicians.
Remember that, even if you have all the required information up front and present it in an organized fashion, it may take some time (months in some cases) for the disability examiner to hear back from doctors regarding your case. It is not unusual, unfortunately, for physicians to be slow responding to requests for medical records. Sometimes it's possible for the disability claimant to pick up the necessary papers and hand-deliver them to the disability office, and if you have the time to do this, it's not a bad idea.
Also, if you are currently undergoing treatment for your disability and there are any new developments in your condition, be sure to provide your disability examiner with an updated list of medical facilities visited, tests performed, medications prescribed, etc.
This is important at every stage of the determination process, from the initial claim to the reconsideration appeal to, if necessary, the hearing level. If you have been denied by disability determination services on appeal, and have requested a hearing before an administrative judge, remember also to keep your disability lawyer informed about any changes in your medical condition that may strengthen your case.
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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