How Long Do Social Security Disability Appeals Take?

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Question

I just received a denial notice for Social Security disability benefits. I have congestive heart failure. How long will the appeal process take?

Answer

There is simply no way to know exactly how long a disability appeal with the Social Security administration will take. This is due to several facts.

First, disability cases do not have deadlines (despite the fact that the Social Security office will often says that it will take 90-120 days for processing an initial decision).

Second, all cases are different as far as a claimant's impairments and medical evidence is concerned. Some conditions are easy to determine as disabled; others take longer.

Third, sometimes a case is assigned to a DDS claims examiner or administrative law judge who has three hundred cases to work on, and sometimes to an examiner or judge who has ninety cases on their schedule. In other words, the luck of the draw may apply.

Fourth, most states require that claimants who want to appeal first file a request for reconsideration with the state disability determination agency, but some states have stopped requiring this. If you live in one of these states that don't require the reconsideration step (notably, New York and Pennsylvania), you can file a request for appeal hearing right after receiving a denial, which can save three to four months off the time it takes to win an appeal. (Visit our state-by-state disability information pages to learn if your state has eliminated the reconsideration step.)

On average, though, reconsiderations are completed in four months or less, and hearings before judges are granted about nine to twelve months after a hearing is requested. Unfortunately, there are many examples of reconsiderations taking considerably longer than six months, and hearings taking a year or more to be scheduled.

Learn more about the timing of reconsiderations and timing issues for appeals.

Updated by: , J.D.

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