In general, it takes about three to five months to receive a decision on your social security disability benefits application, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). That time may vary depending on several factors such as the time it takes to collect medical records or other key evidence to make a decision.
After you have been approved to receive your disability benefits, there is a mandatory waiting period of five months from the date of disability. This may seem insurmountable when you desperately need the money, but it may not be as long as you think.
The Social Security Disability Approval Process Can Take Months or Years
While many websites claim that applications are usually processed within six weeks, the reality is that it can take much longer than that. In November 2021, the average process time was 168 days or about five and a half months. That amount of time is even longer for many applicants who do not get approved and must appeal the decision. This could be up to 61% of people who apply as the initial application approval rate is only 39%.
It may take up to two years or longer to have your disability application processed if you go through reconsideration and request a hearing with a judge. It can take even longer if you have to enter higher levels of the appeals process. A Social Security Disability attorney will be able to advise you on the amount of time your case may take as it goes through appeals.
Speeding Up the Disability Approval Process
Your application can be fast-tracked if you have cancer, a terminal illness, or other debilitating or easily diagnosed disabling condition. The SSA offers several different paths to having the application process expedited based on specific criteria:
The Quick Disability Determination Program (QDD)
A computer-based program is used to identify applicants who have easily determined disabilities with readily available medical evidence and are highly likely to be approved. Those applications are then prioritized and given expedited processing.
Compassionate Allowances (CAL)
CAL is a process for identifying the most serious disabilities. It is a way of quickly identifying medical conditions and illnesses that meet the standards for disability by definition. CAL is often used for cancer patients.
Terminal Illness (TERI)
Expedited processing is given to applicants who have conditions that are untreatable, irreversible, and will likely to result in death.
Veteran 100 Percent Permanent and Total (VPAT)
Veterans who have received a 100% permanent and total disability rating from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) will have their applications fast-tracked.
Military Casualty/ Wounded Warrior (MC/WW)
Current or former members of the military who suffered an illness, wound, or injury and are claiming to be physically or mentally impaired can have their disability applications expedited.
Dire Need (DRND)
If you have a dire need situation such as lacking food, medicine or medical care with no means to obtain them your application can receive special processing. Additional dire need circumstances include homelessness, imminent eviction or foreclosure, shelter without utilities such that your home is unlivable.
Potentially Violent Cases
If it appears that an applicant is suicidal, homicidal, or potentially violent, their case can be given special processing.
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When Will Benefits Begin Once Approved?
Once you are actually approved for Social Security disability benefits, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, there is a mandatory waiting period of five months, but that wait period is not five months from the date of application approval. The five-month waiting period is counted starting on the date of your disability.
Your benefits begin the sixth full month after you become disabled. So, if you were disabled on January 1, 2022, applied for benefits on February 5, 2022 and were approved on June 15, 2022, you would start receiving benefits in July. This would be the sixth full month after your disability began in January. By the time your application is approved, your five-month waiting period would be over.
If your waiting period is over before your disability benefits application is approved, the SSA can send retroactive benefit payments for the months you were entitled to benefits but weren’t receiving them yet. That means, if your disability date was on December 10, 2021, but you didn’t get approved until June 15, 2022, they would pay you an extra month of benefits (or two months’ worth of benefits) starting July since your wait period would have ended in May 2022. The SSA is allowed to pay up to 12 months prior to the application date in retroactive benefits for SSDI.
There is no waiting period imposed on people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS. A federal law was passed in 2020 eliminating it.
Additionally, if you were disability benefits for up to five years and need to go back on, you may be able to skip the waiting period. As long as your SSDI benefits ended due to you returning to work or earning too much income, you can request that they resume immediately.
SSI applicants who have particular conditions can receive up to six months of SSI benefits while they wait for their application to be approved. If their application is denied they are not required to pay the money back.
Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC Can Help You Get the Disability Benefits You Need
The Social Security Disability lawyers at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC can walk you through the disability benefits application process. Whether you’re just starting, waiting to hear back from the SSA, or somewhere in the appeals process, we can inform you of your rights, help you gather the evidence to build a stronger case, and advise you of your next steps. Call us for assistance today at (828) 286-3866.