How Long Does It Take to Get Social Security Disability?

Colbert Cooper Hill Attorneys

A person with a medical condition filling out paperwork

Losing your source of income is likely to put you in a tight spot financially, which is a big source of stress. You must be wondering: how long until I can collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits?

That depends on a couple of factors. While all disability filers must wait a minimum of five months after their disability begins before their first monthly check, that doesn’t mean your application will actually be approved that quickly.

You can apply for disability benefits as soon as your disability begins. (In order to be eligible for SSDI, your condition must prevent you from working for at least 12 months or be terminal.) From the date you submit your initial application, the Social Security Administration (SSA) takes an average of 3 to 5 months to make an initial decision. However, more than two thirds of first-time applicants are rejected, and the appeals process can take months or even years.

There are ways to speed up this process, but one of the best decisions you can make it to hire a disability lawyer. An experienced attorney like Colbert Cooper Hill can assist you with the complex application and appeal.

How Long Before I Can Start Receiving SSDI Benefits?

For the vast majority of SSDI applicants, there is a waiting period before you can start receiving your Social Security benefits. You must wait at least five full months from the date your disability began, known as the “established onset date.” There is one exception: the waiting period is waived for people diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

If you apply as soon as you become disabled, and the Social Security office makes a quick decision in your favor, you may still have to wait a while before receiving your disability benefits. The monthly SSDI benefit starts up on the first day of the sixth month.

However, that is only the best-case scenario. Many people have their SSDI application rejected. It is very common, and it does not mean you should give up. Instead, you should appeal the decision for your SSDI claim.

The initial appeal is called “reconsideration.” This process can take another 3 to 4 months. Many of these are also denied, so don’t get discouraged if it happens to you.

If your reconsideration is not successful, you can file an appeal and appear in front of an administrative law judge to argue your case. This process will also take months, and in some cases years, to get a decision.

This is undoubtedly a painful, difficult time financially. You may be going deep into debt while you wait to receive benefits. It’s important that you know that if your claim is approved, you will receive retroactive Social Security disability benefits. This means that you will receive a lump sum of the benefits you should have received from your disability onset date, minus the five-month waiting period.

RELATED: How to Pass a Continuing Disability Review

Tips to Speed Up Your SSDI Claim Decision

A woman with headphones working at a computer

There are a few limiting factors for SSDI benefit processing time that you, unfortunately, have no control over. The first is that many people are applying for Social Security disability benefits, and that has created a backlog of applications. The second is that your local Social Security office might be one of the busy ones, or it might serve a smaller population and have a quick turnaround time. It just depends on where you live.

While much of the process is out of your hands, there are some steps you can take to help the Social Security Administration make a timely decision.

  • Apply online: Online applications are processed faster than paper applications. According to the SSA, this can cut your wait for an interview in half.
  • If you qualify, submit a fast-track application: For certain qualifying conditions, you can fast-track your application by using either the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) or Quick Disability Determinations (QDD) claim process.
  • Complete all the details of the application: It can be time-consuming to list all your doctors, their contact information, and the dates you saw them, but it is worth the effort.
  • Include all your medical records: If you don’t submit adequate medical evidence, then the SSA will have to request that information, which can extend the decision time.
  • Include letters from your doctor(s): Each of your doctors should provide you with a letter detailing your condition and how your disability prevents you from working.
  • Check your application status: If any problems come up, you can be proactive about fixing them. You can check online, or you can call the SSA.
  • Get help from a disability lawyer: An experienced lawyer can help you put together your medical evidence and can help you make an appeal in the case of denial. Particularly in the case of appeals, those represented by a lawyer were twice as likely to be approved.

In general, if you don’t submit enough information, then the SSA will have to request that information. This delays the process and your SSDI benefits. The waiting period while the SSA reviews your claim can be a very stressful time. The best thing you can do is be tenacious, thorough, and keep trying.

What About Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

In addition to SSDI, the SSA also administers a program called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This is a means-tested program that can provide an additional monthly benefit for qualifying individuals with limited financial resources and monthly income. In addition to meeting the financial requirements, you must either be disabled (under the same definition used for SSDI), legally blind, or age 65 or older to be eligible for SSI.

As with SSDI, the standard SSI approval process can often take 3-5 months or more. However, approval can be expedited under certain circumstances. For example, if your disability or blindness are severe enough, you may be able to start receiving payments right away under a “presumptive disability” ruling while you wait for the SSA to make a final decision. Additionally, there is no five-month waiting period for SSI benefits.

You’re More Likely to Be Approved if You Hire a Lawyer

A couple meeting with a legal professional

As with many things in life, experience and training make a big difference. This may be your first time applying for disability benefits, and you may find that it is not as easy or as fast as you’d hoped. It can be difficult to consider hiring a lawyer to help you when you are already struggling to pay your bills.

Many lawyers, including those at Colbert Cooper Hill Attorneys, are paid on contingency. This means that we only get paid if we help you get approved for disability benefits. Plus, the SSA has made rules about payment, and lawyers can only get their payment from a small portion of your retroactive benefits. This means you should never have to pay out-of-pocket for a lawyer’s help.

Your lawyer’s experience and knowledge will help you strengthen your case in order to help you get disability benefits approved. A lawyer can help you gather medical records, and will have knowledge about whether additional evidence may be needed. Your lawyer should know when to call in a medical expert during your appeals hearing, and help prepare you for questions during the hearing.

RELATED: How Much Does a Social Security Disability Lawyer Cost?

Call Colbert Cooper Hill for Help with Your Disability Claim

If you have a medical condition preventing you from working, and you’re wondering how long it takes before you can start receiving SSDI benefits, get in touch with our office. Our team is dedicated to helping Oklahoma citizens like you, so that you can focus on recovery. We can review your claim and advise you on what we can do to create a stronger case, or help by representing you at a hearing. If the SSA denies your appeals, you don’t owe us a thing.

We know that finances may be tight while you’re waiting for that first payment, even though it may be a few months away. That’s why we offer you a no-strings-attached, stress-free consultation about your application and eligibility. We can discuss the specifics of your case and let you know how our lawyers can help.

Contact us for your free consultation today by calling (580) 271-9672 or filling out the online form to move forward to a better tomorrow.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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