How Long Does It Take for an SSDI Claim to be Approved?
If I apply for disability how long before I get a check?
Author: Attorney Greg Reed
According to the Social Security Administration, in December 2019 there were an estimated 541,000 pending disability claims. A person who has recently become disabled may wonder how long it will take for a disability claim to be approved and when they will receive benefits.
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer.
In Texas, an initial claim for disability benefits usually takes between 90 and 120 days to be processed; some cases may take longer, even up to one year. Confused applicants assume the projected time frames are deadlines, but the Social Security Administration has no deadlines. Why one disability case takes longer than another to process depends on a variety of reasons. One disability examiner may take longer to review a case than another; another disability examiner may have a large caseload.
Approximately 70% of initial disability applications are denied.
If your claim is denied, you may request a hearing before an administrative law judge which lengthens the process, but the chance of having your disability claim approved on appeal in Texas is 48%. Different hearings offices have different backlogs and some administrative law judges hear more cases than others. The average wait time in months from the date a hearing is requested until a hearing is held for cases varies from city to city. In May 2020 the wait time for Dallas was 11 months, the wait time for Ft. Worth was 10 months, the wait time for San Antonio was 8 months and the wait time for Houston was 7 – 10 months. Though processing disability claims seems to take forever, if you are approved for Social Security disability benefits, you will be entitled to retroactive payments from the date you became disabled, even if you did not apply for disability right away. This can mean thousands of dollars in backpay for successful claimants. https://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/01_NetStat_Report.html
If you have been denied disability don’t give up! Contact a Disability lawyer at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and get the benefits you deserve.
Despite the backlog of cases, the basic requirements and process for filing a disability claim remains unchanged.
An applicant must have worked long enough and recently enough at a job where they paid Social Security taxes on their earnings and have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least 12 months or result in death. Once an applicant submits their application, Social Security will review their claim to determine that the claimant is disabled and is eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. If an applicant’s initial claim is denied, there are four levels of review, all adding several months to the approval process: 1) reconsideration; 2) requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge; 3) review by the Social Security Appeals Council and 4) review by a federal court.
There are several steps you can take to ensure that your application is processed as quickly as possible.
- File your application as soon as your condition becomes disabling – the day after you stop working or the day after your earnings fall below $1,260 (SGA for 2020). There is no reason to wait.
- File your application online or over the phone.
- Provide complete and accurate information on your application. List in detail all providers of medical treatment, including names and addresses of hospitals and clinics and dates of treatment.
- Include your medical records with your application. Case examiners spend much of their time waiting to receive medical records, often delaying the process unnecessarily.
- Respond as quickly as possible to any requests from Social Security for additional information.
- Call the Social Security office often to check on your case status and verify receipt of any records and information you send.
While the normal procedure for filing a disability claim can take several months, there are some circumstances where Social Security expedites the approval process.
- The Compassionate Allowance program (CAL) provides benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that it’s probable they would qualify for disability benefits under a Social Security impairment listing. This program reduces the wait time to reach a disability determination for individuals with the most serious disabilities such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and pancreatic cancer.
- Quick Disability Determinations (QDD) uses a sophisticated computer program to screen initial applications and identify cases where a disability determination is highly likely. When certain criteria are met, the application is sent to a Quick Disability Determination group for review and decision. The average processing time for QDD cases in 2018 was 19 days.
- The Terminal Illness Program (TERI) handles cases that are expected to result in the death of the applicant on an expedited basis with special consideration for the emotional state of the claimant. An application does not need to state that an illness is terminal, but a Social Security claims examiner can refer an application to the TERI program when a doctor, family member, or friend states that the applicant’s illness is terminal, or if the applicant is in hospice care.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, the Social Security Administration has made some changes to its operations and policies which may delay or reduce wait time for final approval.
At this time all Social Security offices are closed to the public, but the agency is still conducting business by telephone and online. All in-person hearings before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) have been cancelled; ALJs are conducting hearings by telephone until standard operations resume. Claimants and their representatives who are scheduled to have a hearing will be contacted to schedule telephone hearings and postponements will be granted for anyone who declines a telephone hearing. Individuals are not required to do a telephone hearing, but if they decline to go forward with a telephone hearing at this time, it could be some months before an in-person hearing is scheduled for them. Check the SSA COVID-19 page for current updates.
With monthly bills piling up, you may need some other financial assistance to help you get through this long waiting period without income.
The Department of Health and Human Services in Texas offers help with food, health care and cash assistance to families and individuals in need. Churches, charities and other government agencies throughout Texas are willing to help people who are struggling, whether they are disabled or they simply need a hand. Contact your city or county offices to find out where you can get help.
In Travis County there are a variety of government agencies, churches and nonprofit organizations who provide financial assistance in the greater Austin area, including LifeWorks Youth and Family Alliance, Catholic Charities of Central Texas, Caritas of Austin and Any Baby Can.
These organizations can help with rent, mortgage payments, utility bills, medical care, food and clothing. Travis County Health & Human Services and Veterans Service has locations in Austin, Jonestown, Del Valle, Manor and Pflugerville and provides assistance in the form of rent, gas and electric payments, mortgages, home loans, prescriptions, grocery store vouchers, and out-of-town bus tickets.
For customers who are having difficulty paying their water and electric bills, the City of Austin offers a Deferred Payment Arrangement Option.
Customers pay 25% of their account balance as a deposit and the remainder of the bill is paid over six months. Additionally, Austin Energy has partnered with local churches and nonprofit organizations to help customers who cannot pay their bills due to emergencies through their Plus 1 Program.
Filing for Social Security Disability benefits can be a long and frustrating process. Having the counsel and support of a qualified disability attorney can simplify the process and increase your chances for a positive outcome.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Greg Reed has been practicing law for 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Reed obtained board certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Greg is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and the United States Court of Appeals-Fifth Circuit. Mr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, and an Associate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Reed and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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