The Social Security Disability benefits claim process can be long and complicated. Below is a brief description of the process and the general timeframes for each step.

Initial Decision (4 to 6 months) The claim process begins with the filing of a benefits application, which may be submitted by mail or online to a local Social Security Administration (SSA) office. After reviewing the claim, which can take three to five months, the SSA issues an initial decision. Applicants who suffer from certain severe impairments may be able to request a “Compassionate Allowance” via an SSA program that fast tracks certain claims, speeding decision times up to six to eight weeks.

If the SSA determines that the applicant is disabled and entitled to benefits, the application is transferred to a Social Security Payment Center, where the benefits amount is calculated. The retroactive payment typically comes approximately 30-45 days after a favorable decision.
Unfortunately, the government initially denies upwards of 60 percent of the claims filed. Given the time it takes to get an initial decision, we advise clients to file a claim as soon as possible once the client believes he or she will be unable to work for at least a year due to a physical or mental impairment. Your claim could take months or even years to resolve. If you wait too long, you can lose out on retroactive benefits, which are limited to one year from the date of your application.

Hearing (6 to 18 months, plus 9 months for decision) A person whose claim is initially denied can request a hearing before an SSA Administrative Law Judge. While it can take another six to 18 months for the claimant to get in front of a judge, this is the best opportunity to win a case in our experience because the person seeking benefits (and his or her attorney) can make the case directly to the ultimate decision maker. The SSA’s stated benchmark for deciding on these claims is nine months from the date of the hearing, but most hearings are scheduled after that and a few ALJs are often late in issuing a decision, delaying the whole process even more!

Further Appeals (varies) In the event that an ALJ finds that the claimant is not disabled ,the claimant has the right to a further appeal before the SSA’s Appeals Council. The appeal must be filed within 60 days of the ALJ’s decision. While the Council has wide authority to reverse or vacate an ALJ’s decision, the fact is that it affirms the decision about 75 percent of the time.

If the ALJ’s decision is affirmed by the Appeals Council, the claimant has the right to seek additional appeal in a federal court. This appeal must again be filed within 60 days of the Council’s decision. The federal court cannot accept new evidence, so additional appeal is typically warranted only where there is merit to the appeal and an identifiable significant error of law in the ALJ decision. The time lines for these actions vary widely depending on the court in which the appeal is filed and the nature of the specific case.

At Hermann Law Group, PLLC, our New York Social Security disability lawyers understand that it can be difficult and stressful for persons seeking benefits to navigate the claims process alone. We will help guide you through this trying time with care, compassion, professionalism and experience. Our firm proudly maintains a success rate of just under 90 percent for all decisions received over the past twelve months. Our success rate is almost three times the national average at the initial application level and more than twice the national average overall.
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