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The Time It Takes to Get an Answer from SSD

The Social Security Administration administers Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSD). Although it is a federal program funded by taxes taken out of an eligible employee's pay each pay period, states have some ability to affect the process when it comes to making the medical Social Security disability determinations.

Essentially, when an individual becomes injured or sick and can no longer work, that worker may apply to receive Social Security Disability benefits. The amount of the benefits depends on the amount of Social Security payroll taxes the disabled employee has paid into the Social Security Trust Fund. Before determining the amount of benefits, however, a state-level Disability Determination Services office must review the disabled-employee's medical eligibility.

Social Security Disability benefits approval (SSD time) may take a significant amount of time. In the best case scenario, SSD time may take as little as three months (if the approval occurs during the initial application). Unfortunately, Social Security Disability benefits approval is not a simple matter; each case requires a separate analysis.

The state Disability Determinations office must consider many factors during the application process, such as the severity of a worker's illness or injury, the individual's age, education and work experience and skills. The Disability Determination Services office reviews each application carefully, contacts the disabled-worker if more information is needed and generally undertakes a comprehensive review which may include sending the applicant for a medical exam. Most applications (as many as 65%) are denied at the initial application stage. Generally, the initial application may take as little as three months to complete; but it is not uncommon for the initial application to take as many as six months to receive a determination.

If the application is denied at the initial stage (initial application), disabled-workers have sixty (60) days to appeal the decision, usually this review is called Reconsideration however there are eight states and some metro areas where there is no Reconsideration and the appeal the individual must file for is a Hearing. If Reconsideration is applicable, it is also undertaken by the state agency although a different person will be assigned your case. The Reconsideration stage generally takes less time than the initial stage and is usually completed in three to five months. If the claim is denied at Reconsideration, the disabled-worker can initiate a third level of review in order to get a Hearing with the Social Security Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, the disabled-worker has sixty (60) days to appeal the decision. Review at this Hearing stage may take a substantial amount of time; it is not uncommon to wait longer than one year to receive a Hearing and decision at this level.

If a claim is not approved at a Hearing then the disabled individual has 60 days to appeal to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council will only review cases where the Administrative Law Judge has made an error of law, including procedural errors. There is no way to know how long any one appeal to this level will take, case decision times range from three months to as long as twenty-four months. If a disabled individual's case is denied at this level he/she may file an action with the Federal District Court having jurisdiction, less than 2% of cases get his far.

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