If you were injured or diagnosed with a chronic illness and can’t work anymore, then applying for Social Security Disability is probably in your future. Social Security Disability can provide an income when you are no longer able to work and after being approved, you may be eligible for other benefits, like Medicare.
Social Security Disability Horror Stories
You may have heard horror stories about your friend or neighbor who applied and was denied 2 or 3 times and it took 3 years to finally get approved. The horror stories you’ve heard have a basis in fact. In 2017, over 2 million people applied for Social Security Disability. Only approximately 30% were approved after initially applying. The statistics get even more grim: at the first appeal (called the Reconsideration), approximately 88% were denied. The next appeal is called a Request for a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Nationwide, 46% of those who requested a hearing were approved by a judge after having a hearing. So, your chances are better when you get before a judge – that’s the good news.
How Long Does the SSDB Process Take?
As you probably guessed and have likely heard, this process can take quite a while – that’s the bad news. After you initially apply, it takes around 4-6 months to get a decision. After you request Reconsideration, it goes back to the same office that reviewed your case initially. It takes about the same amount of time to get a decision as it did the first time around – roughly 4-6 months. Once you file your Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, it takes anywhere from 12-24 months to actually get a hearing. So, from when you initially apply to your hearing could be 3 years.
Social Security Disability Appeal
If the judge denies your case, then the next appeal is to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is in Falls Church, Va and they only review cases, they don’t hold hearings. The Appeals Council can send it back to the judge (a remand), approve your case and award benefits, or deny your case. It can take 24 months to get a decision from the Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council denies your case, then the next appeal is to file a civil claim in Federal Court. Roughly 50% of cases filed in Federal Court are sent back (remanded) to the Social Security Administration for a new hearing.
Should I Hire a Disability Lawyer?
You are more likely to get approved if you are represented throughout the process. Social Security attorneys are required to work on a contingent fee basis and Social Security sets the fees that an attorney can charge. The current authorized fees are: 25% of the client’s back pay up to $6,000. Attorneys can pass along charges that they incur obtaining your medical records in addition to the fees charged. That means that if you don’t win, your attorney doesn’t get paid, but you may still owe your attorney fees for medical records. Your attorney’s fees will come out of your back pay and are paid directly from the Treasury, so you probably won’t have to write a check to your attorney for fees.
Stick With It!
Applying for Social Security Disability can be a long process, but if you can stick with it, it can give you much-needed income when you are unable to work.
About the Author
Martha Yancey is an attorney and an active member of the State Bars of California and Georgia. She owns and operates Yancey Disability, Inc. located in Encinitas, CA and exclusively practices Social Security Disability. She is the author if The Applicant’s Guide to Social Security Disability, available on Amazon. You can find her at www.helpwithdisability.net or at firstname.lastname@example.org