Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits are a lifeline for a lot of people with different disabilities – but obtaining benefits is neither quick nor easy for most people.
While you can often file your initial application online fairly quickly, that’s just the start of your journey. Here’s what you need to expect as your situation evolves.
It takes three to six months for an initial decision
Unless you have a qualifying “fast track” condition, once you’ve completed your application, filled out the questionnaire about your medical history and signed medical release forms, you can generally expect your claim to be sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) in Raleigh.
There, it will be assigned to a claims examiner and a team of reviewers, including a physician. Your medical records will be collected, and you will probably be asked to complete additional paperwork that talks about your daily activities. Once everything is together, a decision will be made. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), that takes around three to six months.
The appeals process can take much longer
If your initial claim is denied, however, you’re in for a much longer wait. Assuming that you file a reconsideration request, your claim will be sent back to the DDS. There, it will be assigned to a different claims examiner and a new team of reviewers. Your medical records will all be updated, and a new decision will be made. Since it’s essentially the same process as before, you’re in for a similar wait – although it can be shorter if your information hasn’t changed any since you initially filed.
If your claim is denied again, which is unfortunately common, that’s when you’re in for a very long wait. The next step in the process is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) where you can plead your case in person. As of October 2022, the wait for a hearing ranged from eight to 24 months.
Ideally, your initial claim will be approved so that you can avoid terrible appeal-related wait times. Seeking experienced legal guidance can help you present your claim in the best way possible from the start.