How Long Do Social Security Disability Appeals Take?

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

Disability cases do not 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 about 100 days 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 9 months (Houston) to 18 months (Atlanta) to 24 months (Buffalo) for a hearing date.

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 average case take about two years to get a judge's decision. But because all cases are different, especially as far as a claimant's impairments and medical evidence are concerned, some cases are easy to determine that the applicant is disabled; others take 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 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 Disabililty Determination Services office in your state. If you can get your denial reversed at that stage, you can shorten the appeals process to two or three months.

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

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