The approval process for Social Security disability benefits is best described with one word: slow.
After you submit your initial application, it usually takes three to five months to hear back from the Social Security Administration (SSA), and 67 percent of initial applications are denied. If you decide to appeal their decision, it takes another two to four months to hear back from the SSA, and 88 percent of appeals are denied.
At this point, you’ve waited somewhere between five and nine months since you first applied just to be denied twice. Now you’re given the option of requesting a hearing—but that’s going to take time, too.
It can take anywhere from one and a half to two years before you finally get to make your case in front of an administrative law judge. For Indianapolis residents, the average wait time is 19 months, according to the SSA’s most recent monthly statistics.
It makes sense that you might wonder whether reapplying from the beginning might be the better option than waiting around for a hearing. But if you choose to wait for a hearing, you’ll have more than luck on your side.
Disability Approval Statistics: The Numbers Don’t Lie
One conclusion you can draw from the SSA’s 2015 statistics is the shorter the wait time, the smaller your chances of getting approved.
Only 33 percent of initial applications are approved. Even worse, only 12 percent of those who file an appeal are approved at that stage.
But instead of approval numbers continuing to shrink, they jump up. 45 percent of those who request a hearing are approved.
It takes time to investigate a claim and determine whether or not a person really qualifies for disability benefits. People’s medical conditions change for better or for worse over the course of months or years. There’s a lot more evidence available to strengthen your claim if you’ve been waiting for a year rather than a few weeks.
The approval at the appeal stage is so low not because these people aren’t really disabled, but because there’s not much more evidence in the two to four months between their initial denial and the SSA’s latest rejection. But if you have to wait a 19 months for a hearing and you spend that time treating with your doctor, keeping appointments, taking your medication, and you still can’t work, a judge will have all of that evidence to consider before she makes her decision, which will likely benefit your case.
Making Sure You Meet Deadlines
Your odds of getting approved increase if you make it to the hearing stage, so it’s best for you to stay in the process and not go back to the initial application stage to start all over again. However, sometimes people don’t choose to start the process over again from the beginning—they’re forced to.
Once your initial application is denied, you only have 60 days to file an appeal. And once your appeal has been denied, you only have 60 days to request a hearing.
If you don’t file your appeal or request a hearing within those 60 day periods, you will have to start the process all over again with a new initial application. And as slow and drawn out as the approval process can be, it’s even worse if you have to start all over again because you missed a deadline.
Have Patience with the Process
There’s really no getting around how long the approval process is for Social Security disability benefits. You can’t create a shortcut by simply reapplying instead of waiting for your hearing—in fact, that’ll just make the process take longer. It is best to just have patience, keep treating with your doctor(s), and keep your attorney informed of any changes to your condition or contact information until your hearing date arrives.
It can be overwhelming to fill out an application by yourself, file an appeal within 60 days, and request a hearing within 60 days. It’ll be even more difficult to represent yourself in front of an administrative law judge when your hearing date finally comes. An experienced Indiana Social Security disability attorney can make sure you fill out your application correctly, request an appeal and a hearing before you hit any deadlines, and represent your case well in front of a judge. Call Hensley Legal Group today, no matter where you are in the approval process, and let us help keep your claim on track.