Social Security Disability - A Long and Complex Process
You've become injured, developed a crippling illness, or you've finally succumbed to the advanced effects of a number of medical conditions. You follow a friend or relative's advice and you contact the social security administration for the purpose of filing a disability application. All you have to do now is wait a few weeks and then your benefits should start, right?
Unfortunately, the disability system in the U.S. of A doesn't quite work that way. Quite the contrary, the system is heavily bureaucratic and correspondingly slow, and is geared for neither fairness nor empathy with regard to either your medical or financial considerations.
To allow yourself the chance to make the best decisions later on, you need to understand from the very beginning that if you are disabled and are applying for either social security disability or ssi disability benefits, the process is very, very long. In fact, if you are not approved for benefits when you first apply for ssd or ssi--this is called the initial phase--then it is likely that you will have to go through the entire social security disability appeals process.
This can literally take years to get through--and, typically in most states, especially those with large hearing office backlogs, can take as much as three years.
How long does each step take? The initial claim phase, or application phase, can take anywhere from a month (not likely) to a year (yes, an application can really take this long in some cases). The middle step, which is called the reconsideration stage and is really just a repeat of the application phase, can take just as long; meaning, in most instances, several months.
Most individuals are denied their disability benefits at the reconsideration level, but, nonetheless, are required to go through this stage if they want the opportunity for a hearing before a judge. After the reconsideration stage comes the disability hearing stage. And this is where the wait really begins.
After you've been denied at the reconsideration level, you request a disability hearing before a federal judge. How long is the wait this time? Well, depending on where you live, it might take you a year or longer to get a hearing date.
But the waiting doesn't end there. After a hearing has been conducted, a claimant will be required to wait for a decision notice. How long does this take? Some judges will inform a claimant that a decision may be rendered in six weeks. But, often, it takes several months. Even after you have the hearing, you may only have about a one out of two chance (according to national statistics--the win rates do vary by state) of being granted your social security disability or ssi benefits.
So...if you are thinking of applying for ssa benefits, think about how long the process might take and get prepared, if you are able. Applying for disability will seldom ever be an easy process, but if you know in advance how long it can really take, you can make better decisions (regarding your finances, housing situation, etc) along the way.
The author of this article is Timothy Moore, who, in addition to being a former food stamp caseworker, medicaid caseworker and AFDC caseworker, is a former disability
claims examiner. He publishes information at http://www.disabilitysecrets.com