How Long Does It Take to Get a Disability Approval Letter?

On average, SSA disability processing time can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months. You’ll usually receive your disability approval letter shortly afterward. But in certain cases, this can take longer. Some people even waited for years before they got their decision notice. Of course, this depends on each individual case. If your claim gets approved upon initial application, you won’t have to wait that long. But if you got denied, you will have to make an appeal and the waiting time can drag on. Obviously, not everyone can afford to wait this long. Since you cannot work during this period, finances will be a little tight. Not to mention that you will now have to pay for medical expenses in addition to your regular living expenses. To make sure you get your disability benefits the soonest possible time, you need to get a disability lawyer. Aside from their expertise on SSA rules and policies, they also know how best to present your claim to the SSA. If they’re an experienced lawyer like Victor Malca, the process will most likely be much faster. But if you’ll opt to do things yourself, expect an uphill climb. To give you an idea of what you’ll go through, here’s a quick rundown of the disability claims process:

The Disability Determination Process

The SSA offers two types of disability benefits: SSDI and SSI. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is awarded to disabled people who have paid enough social security taxes. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), on the other hand, is a needs-based benefit. Meaning, you need to prove you have a limited source of income to avail of such. In general, SSI benefits are much lower than SSDI. But whether you’re applying for SSI or SSDI, the disability determination process is similar.

A man waiting for his disability approval letter.

Initial Application

To start with, you will have to submit your application either online or to your local SSA office. They also accept applications by phone. Just call their toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 and a representative will get in touch with you. Aside from your personal information, the SSA’s application forms will also require you to describe:

  • your impairments (the more detailed, the better)
  • treatment sources
  • any information related to your alleged disability

Of course, you will also have to submit medical evidence to prove that you really are disabled. This may include doctor’s reports, medical records, and recent test results. The SSA field office will then assess your eligibility. Afterward, your application is forwarded to the Disability Determination Services (DDS).  The DDS are state agencies responsible for evaluating your disability based on your medical records. They will look at the medical evidence you provided but they may also do their own investigation if needed. If the DDS deems that you really are disabled, they will return your case to the SSA field office for benefit computation. Should the DDS found out that you are not disabled, your file will be kept in the field office in case you want to file an appeal.

Request for Reconsideration

If you got denied at the initial application stage, you can still file for reconsideration. According to SSA data, the reconsideration process usually takes a little over 100 days. First, you need to submit the reconsideration forms and new medical evidence (if any). Then the SSA will send your application back to the DDS where it will be assigned to a different disability examiner. They may also send you to an SSA doctor if you didn’t get to go the first time. The examiner will then review the previous decision and consider the new medical evidence submitted. Whether you got approved or denied, you’ll receive the decision either online or by mail. You can also check your SSA account for updates.

ALJ Hearing

Should the SSA deny your request for reconsideration, you can still appeal for a disability hearing. At this stage, you will have to go to court and defend your claim before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Depending on your performance, the ALJ will either confirm or reverse the DDS’ decision. Waiting time for ALJ hearings often vary per state. But most of the time, it can take a year or two. After the hearing, it can take up to two months for the judge to come up with a decision. Then the decision will be drafted by decision writers which can also take a couple of months. Once the decision is finalized, you will receive either an approval or denial notice by mail or online.

VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney

Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.

Book a free consultation today. Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida.

About The Author

Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.