The answer to how long it takes to apply for Social Security Disability benefits and get approved is, “it’s complicated.” It is complicated because there is not a standard time frame for approval of an SSD application, and there are different levels of approval. As we go into the explanation for average wait times and approval rates, understand that every individual case is different. Just because you heard that a family member or neighbor got approved and was receiving benefits within a year does not mean that you will get the same results.
Average time frame for initial SSD application approvals
There is a general average time of about 90 days for an initial Social Security Disability application to be processed. Bear in mind that most disability claims are not approved at the initial claim application stage. Nationwide, about 65 percent of initial disability claims are denied.
SSD application approval and levels of appeal
Beyond the initial application stage, there are several levels of appeal when an initial application has been denied:
- In Maryland, about 15 percent of previously denied disability applications are approved at the reconsideration level, which can have a waiting period of 90 days or more from the date your request was filed. There is a 60-day deadline after your initial application denial to request reconsideration. Beyond that 60 days you must fill out a new application.
- The Social Security Administration has a chart which lists the average waiting times until a hearing once you have filed an appeal from having been denied at the reconsideration stage. At the hearings level, your case is heard by an Administrative Law Judge. You show up to the hearing in person, or it can be done through a video teleconference. You will have another chance to present your case and the ALJ will then issue an opinion.
- If you claim is denied by the ALJ, the next level of appeal is to the Appeals Council (AC), which can choose to review your claim or pass on it. You can sometimes wait a year or more to receive a decision from the AC.
- Federal appeals. The final level of appeal is in federal district court if the Appeals Council denies your claim. The wait times for decisions from the federal court in your district can be downloaded from the website for the federal district court.
What about special circumstances?
If you are dying of a terminal disease, completely unable to work and without any income, it can be quite a hardship to use the little time you have left waiting on a decision about your disability application. The Social Security Administration has developed a Compassionate Allowances program, which expedites the approval process for applicants who qualify under a SSA Impairment listing. The Disability Determination Service (DDS) identifies terminal illnesses and flags those cases for expedited processing in their TERI program.
When you work with an experienced Maryland Social Security Disability lawyer, there is no cost to pursue the claim unless you win. We offer our services on a contingency basis, and the federal government must approve our fees. Successful claimants receive a check every month and, in most cases, a check for back benefits. We receive payment for legal fees out of those back benefits only. We look forward to speaking to you about your Social Security Disability claim. Call Plaxen & Adler, PA at 410.988.4449 or complete our contact form today.