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How Long Will It Take To Get My Disability Decision If I Appeal in California?

If you appeal your disability decision in California, the length of time it will take to get your decision will likely depend on what level of appeal your disability case is at.

If your disability claim is at the reconsideration appeal level, it will most likely not take long as it did to receive the decision at the preceding level, the disability application level. Social Security typically states that disability application decisions take 90 to 120 days.

And this usually turns out to be the norm unless a case is delayed by requests for medical records or the need for multiple consultative medical examinations, or when a case has been deferred because the claimant has had surgery that requires the residual effects be evaluated, or suffered a stroke, or suffered a heart attack.

The first appeal - the request for reconsideration

Reconsideration decisions are notable in that the decision can usually be received in under 60 days. This usually occurs because when a reconsideration appeal is processed, much of the case development has already been done at the application level, added to the fact that the reconsideration takes place very quickly after a disability application has been denied.

Reconsideration appeals are sent to the same state disability determination agency that made your initial disability decision (DDS, or disability determination services).

However, the disability examiner who makes your reconsideration appeal decision will not be the examiner who made the decision on your initial disability claim. Unfortunately, the change in disability examiners does not improve your chances of being approved for Social Security Disability.

The reconsideration appeal level has the lowest rate of approval of the Social Security Disability process. This is not surprising considering that reconsideration appeals are decided using the same guidelines as the initial disability decision. Consequently, the initial disability claim examiner would have to have made a mistake, or there would have to be new medical evidence to support the position that the initial disability decision was incorrect.

The denial rate for reconsideration appeals varies, but typically runs about eighty–five to eighty-eight percent.

The second appeal - the request for a disability hearing

If you are one of the eighty-five percent who receive a reconsideration appeal denial, you will have to file a request for an administrative law judge hearing if you still wish to pursue your disability claim. Unlike the reconsideration appeal, your chances of being approved for disability benefits dramatically improve at this level of the disability process. About sixty-five percent of all individuals who attend a disability hearing with an administrative law judge in California are approved for disability benefits.

The downside to this level of the disability process is the length of time it takes to get a decision. Depending on your location, the wait time for a disability hearing could be anywhere from five months to fifteen months.

Social Security has substantially improved the wait time in recent years; however they are struggling to cope with new hearing requests while trying to clear out their hearing backlogs. If you are not approved at your disability hearing, you can appeal your hearing decision to the Appeals Council.

Under the new Social Security guidelines, you have to choose between filing a request for an Appeals Council review, or a new disability claim. If you have a disability representative or a disability attorney, they will help you decide what you should do. Most Appeals Council reviews are denied; however a few are remanded back to the administrative law judge or even approved by the Appeals Council.

While it is possible to tell you approximately how long it will take to get a decision at each appeal level, it is impossible to know exactly how long a claim will take. For status calls, it’s best to call your local social security office in all matters regarding your Social Security Disability case, rather than using the online applications process. Not only do you have the benefit of talking directly to a knowledgeable person who can answer your question in detail, but you also have the chance to establish contacts and (hopefully) rapport with one or two individuals in the office, which cannot hurt your case.

After you have requested an application, completed the required disability forms, and participated in a disability application interview, your Social Security Disability income will be determined as follows:

1. Your application will be sent to the agency in charge of making disability determinations in California for social security. Some common names for this agency are the bureau for disability determination services, disability determination division/services, etc. It is referred to in the Social Security act as DDS, or disability determiantion services. In California, the specific name for the agency is Disability Determination Service Division.

2. Your case will be assigned to an examiner, who will review your medical records and make a disability determination based on these records.

3. You will be notified if your disability application has been approved or denied, and what, if any, compensation you can expect to receive. If you have not been approved for SSDI benefits, you will be informed of your right to appeal the decision, and how to go about doing that.

4. You have 60 days to file an appeal upon rejection of your disability application in California. If you have been denied Social Security Disability benefits, you should contact your local social security office immediately, and request the forms needed to submit a request for reconsideration. However, at this point you may wish to retain a disability lawyer to take over your case.

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For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.