How long can it take to get disability benefits in Colorado?

There is no certain answer to this question. The facts of each individual's disability claim will determine how long it will take to get Social Security Disability benefits or SSI benefits.

For example, if an individual applying for disability is approved at the initial claim or disability application level, it may be that they receive their approval within the timeframe often quoted by CRs. This tends to be 90-120 days.

Note: The CR is the field office claims representative who handles the intake portion of the claim, sends the claim to a disability examiner at DDS for a disability determination, and then receives the case back from the examiner to finalize the claim.

Special Situations for quicker disability decisions

There are, of course, many cases that are approved at the application level much more quickly than this.

For instance, if an individual has a disabling condition that:

A) fits the disability approval criteria of a QDD (quick disability decision) decision case,

B) is a condition that is on the compassionate allowance list,

C) is a terminal condition, or finally,

D) the severity of their condition satisfies the criteria of a Social Security Disability impairment listing,

--then they are likely to be approved for disability benefits in a fairly short amount of time.

Disability claims that involve a terminal condition are processed in thirty days or less, while cases that involve QDD or Compassionate allowance conditions may take a little longer than thirty days but are still quickly processed.

Other situations

In other instances, it may be that the disability examiner rendering the decision has been able to quickly assemble the medical records from the medical treatment sources listed on the claim, thus resulting in a speedy decision.

Note: This can also be facilitated in certain cases when the claimant supplies all their medical records when they file: however, a claimant needs to be sure to include all of their older and current records for this strategy to be effective.

On the other hand, there are cases in which an initial claim will take between 6 months to a year for a decision to be reached. In such cases, it may be that the claimant has had their case deferred to await the outcome of a surgical procedure (or a stroke or a heart attack), or has had multiple Social Security medical exams scheduled, or the examiner has had extreme difficulty obtaining the claimant's records---or perhaps all these situations have been encountered.

Suffice it to say, an initial disability decision in Colorado takes anywhere from a few days to a few months. However, if the disability claim involves any of the afore-mentioned scenarios such as QDD or a compassionate allowance, or a terminal condition, they are likely to get their disability quickly, especially if their disability claim involves a terminal condition.

Most claims in Colorado are initially denied

The reality is that most disability claims are not approved for Social Security Disability benefits in Colorado at the initial disability claim level.

An average of thirty-five percent of initial disability claims are an approval, and the remaining 65-70 percent of denied claimants will face the prospect of having to give up on their claim, or go through the Social Security appeal process.

The first level of that process is the reconsideration appeal. Reconsideration appeal decisions generally take about sixty days to receive a disability decision, sometimes less, sometimes more. Unfortunately, reconsideration appeals have an even lower rate of approval than initial disability claims.

Which means the vast majority of individuals who begin the disability appeal process will have to continue the appeal process to the level of an administrative law judge disability hearing.

The Social Security hearing appeal takes the longest amount of time to receive decision. The bulk of the time is spent waiting for a disability hearing date. Due to large backlogs at hearing offices across the country, wait times are anywhere between a few months to nearly two years.

However, this level of the Social Security Disability process is the most favorable to disability applicants. More than 60 percent of all disability hearings where representation is involved result in an approval for disability benefits.

Note: The request for reconsideration appeal step is currently suspended in the state of Colorado as Colorado is one of 10 prototype states testing a system in which denied claims move immediately to the hearing level upon appeal. Reconsideration may be reinstated at some point and many consider this likely. In the meantime, a claimant who is denied on a disability application should request, and prepare, for a hearing before a federal administrative law judge.

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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