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How Long Does the Social Security Disability Appeals Process Take?

Posted By Corey Luedeman - 08.29.17

The Social Security Disability appeals process can be complicated. If you have applied for Social Security Disability benefits and been denied, you have the right to appeal the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s decision. The appeals process basically asks various people within the SSA to take another look at your case.

But how long does the Social Security Disability appeals process normally take?

You Could Be Approved for Disability Benefits At Any Point

There is no way to know exactly how long it will take for the SSA to approve your application. You could be approved at any point in the appeals process. It could take 3 months, or 3 years. It just depends on where in the process you are approved for disability benefits.

Let’s walk through the different steps of the Social Security Disability appeals process so you can better understand what each part of the process means.

Request for Reconsideration

Once you have filed your initial application, it will take between 3-6 months for the SSA to review your application and make a decision. If your initial application is denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal. This part of the appeal process is called Request for Reconsideration.

At this point, it may benefit you to get an Iowa Social Security Disability lawyer involved in your case. Among other things, a lawyer specializing in the Social Security Disability appeals process can track down your most up-to-date medical records, get your doctor’s opinions regarding your restrictions and limitations, and submit them to the SSA. These records can help Social Security make a more informed decision about whether you meet their criteria for being disabled.

Reconsideration normally takes between 2 and 3 months. The vast majority of claims at this point in the process are denied and must move to the next step.

Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge

If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, the next step is to request a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge within 60 days. This is where the real bottleneck in the Social Security Disability appeals process can begin. Because there are so few Administrative Law Judges to hear disability claims, applicants can wait up anywhere from 14-22 months or more before they see a judge.

Before your hearing, your Social Security attorney will answer any questions you might have and prepare you for some of the questions the judge may ask.

During the hearing, a judge will listen to your testimony and may ask you questions. If you have any experts or other witnesses to testify on your behalf, the judge will hear them as well. Generally, your hearing won’t be very long – usually an hour or less.

It’s important to know that you may not receive a decision by the judge during the hearing. Often, a judge will review your case after the hearing is completed and send a letter with their decision to you and your attorney (if you have one). Do not feel discouraged if you do not get a ruling that day – it’s not unusual for the judge to make their decision after the hearing.

Request Appeals Council Review

If your claim is denied once more, the next step in the Social Security Disability appeals process is requesting an Appeals Council review of your case. This step is to evaluate whether the judge at your hearing made an error in ruling against you. They do not consider whether or not you are disabled. They only look at your claim and see if the judge made the right call in denying you benefits.

This part of the process can take another 12-15 months. The vast majority of claims at this point in the process are denied.

File a Lawsuit in Federal Court

The final step in the Social Security Disability appeals process is to file a lawsuit against the SSA in federal court. This part of the appeal is very complicated, and it’s likely you would need the help of an experienced Social Security disability lawyer to file this lawsuit.

Again, this federal court review is not to determine whether or not you’re disabled. This review is only used to determine whether the proper procedures were followed when ruling against your claim. It’s difficult to win a disability case in federal court, and we do not recommend anyone pursue this step without experienced legal counsel.

If your Social Security Disability claim has been denied, our disability attorneys can help you begin the appeal process. Call RSH Legal today at 1-800-433-0283 or download our FREE legal guide on Iowa Social Security Disability Claims.

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