If an accident or illness has left you permanently disabled and unable to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, your bills won’t wait for you to find out — or for that first check to clear. So, how long will it take for Social Security to process your disability application?
Unfortunately, the program doesn’t have set timetables for processing claims. The length of time it takes to make a disability determination depends on a broad range of variables, including how many times you have to go through the disability process (initial claim, reconsideration, and hearing). Not only does each step in the process take an indeterminate amount of time, but in North Carolina most claims are initially denied by the state agency charged with administering these federal benefits, so many are appealed and either approved or denied again, which takes yet more time.
Generally, it can take 30 to 90 days to receive a decision on your initial claim. If it is denied, you can appeal, but it must be in writing and received within 60 days of the date you received your denial letter. This is the first level of appeal, known as reconsideration, where a complete review of your claim is done by someone who did not factor in the first decision to deny you benefits.
If your reconsideration appeal is also denied, you can request an administrative law judge disability hearing. This is where the real wait comes in, especially in North Carolina, where as of March 2018, there were tens of thousands of applicants waiting 600 days or more for a hearing . Once you are assigned a court date, you will be asked to appear before an independent judge who will decide whether you qualify for disability insurance. An attorney can (and should) help prepare evidence, represent you at the hearing, and call any witnesses, such as your doctor.
Fortunately, there are some exceptions for those whose conditions qualify for a quicker decision. Compassionate allowances apply to those with a terminal illness or certain conditions such as acute cancers, brain disorders and rare disorders that affect children. You may also qualify for a Quick Disability Determination (QDD), which uses a computer screening of initial applications to identify conditions that are most likely to qualify and then expedites those applications. Qualifying for a compassionate allowance or a QDD could mean the difference between waiting months and waiting days.
If your application is approved, you will receive benefits after you have been unable to work for at least five months; payments could start during the sixth month of your disability.
Whether you are just thinking about applying for SSDI or you need to appeal a denial, connecting with a lawyer who has successfully shepherded applications through the SSA process can help ease your stress and give you a greater chance of a successful resolution.
The Lanier Law Group, P.A. has years of experience helping clients in North Carolina fight Social Security Disability denials and offers full-service support and strong legal advocacy. Call us toll free at (855) 757-4204 or contact us today for a free consultation about your case.