SSD and SSI applications in California

Many individuals in California who are effectively disabled (unable to perform the work requirements of their current jobs, past jobs, or any other job) wait quite a while before they decide to contact the social security office and file an application for disability. In fact, some potential claimants never seriously consider filing for disability benefits until their funds are exhausted and their disabling condition has become even more severe.


1. Tips to file for disability
2. How to apply for disability
3. How to apply with an application for disability
4. Requirements for applying for disability
5. Medical conditions for which you can file for disability
6. How long does it take to get disability

Why do some people wait so long before applying for disability? There are many answers to the question. For some, delaying filing may reflect the hope that their condition will improve, making a return to work possible. For others, a delay in filing may have a bit to do with hearing from others how difficult the (Social Security Disability) system is. Such scenarios are understandable, of course. The mere prospect of not being able to work and earn a living is fatiguing, in and of itself.

However, waiting too long to file an appeal, or in this case an application for disability benefits can be harmful to an individual's well-being. What is "too long" in this instance? Too long can be defined as waiting beyond the time that you have become disabled and unable to work. In other words, when you can no longer go to your job, or can no longer work and earn a certain minimal amount (social security refers to this as substantial gainful activity), you should immediately file an application for disability. And you should not hesitate to do this, because the application and appeal system can take an incredibly long time to get through.

This brings us to other questions, of course, such as how to file an application for disability and how long such an application takes to process. How to file for disability is fairly simple (though, it can be somewhat confusing, depressing, and intimidating). You simply contact the social security administration (by contacting your local social security office--try to avoid the 1-800 number as it tends to be the source of a fair amount of bad information) and inform them that you wish to file a disability claim. Once you've performed that simple act, the process will be set in motion.

What happens after you've requested an application? An interview appointment date will be set. Your interview can be done over the phone, or in person at the social security office. What happens after an interview has been conducted and an application has been filed? You wait, for several weeks, or, perhaps, several months, for a disability claims examiner (at a state agency that handles disability claims for the social security administration) to gather all your medical records and make a decision on your case. If the decision is an approval, of course, then you should begin receiving benefits shortly (shortly is a relative term---sometimes it can take weeks to get into benefit receipt status and months to receive your backpay). If the decision is a denial, you have the choice of starting over with a new application for disability, or filing an appeal (typically, the better choice).

How long does it take to get a decision on an application for disability? This is a nebulous question because the answer varies with each and every Social Security Disability claim. There are no deadlines on SSD cases (unlike medicaid) so an application for disability may take thirty days, three months, six months, or beyond a year. In most cases, a decision will take close to the average that's spouted by most claims reps (claims reps are the individuals who take disability claims at the social security office). But that doesn't always happen.

If you are denied for disability, of course, you probably want to consider getting representation for your claim, though you are entitled to obtain help at any stage of the process, even after you've just applied for Social Security Disability or SSI disability, or before a disability hearing is scheduled to take place.

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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