I just received a denial notice for Social Security disability benefits. I have congestive heart failure. How long will the appeal process take?
Disability cases don't have deadlines, but Social Security does publish averages for the time it takes for them to process reconsideration and hearing requests.
First, you have 60 days after receiving a denial to request a reconsideration of the decision. Once you make the request, it takes a claims examiner between three to five months to approve or deny your claim. If you're one of the lucky 12-13% of people who are approved for benefits at the reconsideration stage, you're done.
But if you get denied again, you have another 60 days to request an appeal hearing. Then, depending on your location, you will wait anywhere from 10 months (Texas) to 9 months (Florida) to 11 months (California) for a hearing date. The average wait time for an in-person hearing is about one year.
After your hearing, you'll have to wait anywhere from a few weeks to three months to get the judge's decision.
When you add it all up, the typical case takes about two years to get a judge's decision. But because all cases are different, especially as far as an applicant's impairments and medical evidence are concerned, it's tough to estimate how long a case will take. Some cases are easy for Social Security to determine that the applicant is disabled; others take much longer. In addition, 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. If you have a strong case, to speed up your appeal, you could request an attorney advisor opinion, which can get you a pre-hearing decision on your appeal.
If you have new evidence you didn't submit with your initial application, or you have new test results that show your condition is worsening, bring it up at the reconsideration stage by calling the Disability Determination Services office in your state. If you can get your denial reversed at that stage, you can shorten the appeals process to three or four months.
Updated October 17, 2022