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

Waiting for a decision about whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) will approve your application to receive disability benefits can be the source of a lot of anxiety. No one should have to tolerate not knowing if their current financial trouble will be relieved by Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, or if they will be forced into more desperate circumstances, for long.

In this blog post, our team at disability advocates and lawyers at London Disability will explain.

  • how long the average SSD claim takes to receive an approval notice,
  • what factors could delay the decision, and
  • how you can minimize your chances of having your claim take longer than necessary.

Average Time to Get a Disability Approval Letter

According to the statistics kept by the Social Security Administration, the average claimant who applies for Social Security Disability benefits waits from 3 to 5 months to receive the notice of approval after the decision to approve is made. The decision to approve takes an average of between 1 and 3 months. That means the total waiting time, on average, from the date of your application to the date you receive your approval letter runs from 4 to 8 months.

Possible Causes for the Delay of Your Disability Approval Letter

There are many reasons a disability application will take longer to process and approve than it should.

  • Incomplete or unclear medical records
  • Poorly prepared disability benefits application package
  • Overwhelmed state-operated Disability Determination Service
  • Need to appeal a following initial denial

Each of these factors can cause delays in the process of reviewing and approving your application. The letter of approval is a welcome but working hard to maximize the chances of approval is the first priority. Experienced disability lawyers Attorney at London Disability specialize in working to improve every client’s likelihood of success with their application for Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Incomplete or Unclear Medical Records

When a person applies for SSD benefits, the first stop in the application file’s journey is your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS). It is there that the first review of the documents occurs. The DDS checks to confirm the claimant has accumulated enough work credits to be eligible for benefits, and then examines the claim and the supporting medical records filed in the claim package.

Unfortunately, when claimants attempt to put their own SSD claim package together themselves, or when they enlist the help of an inexperienced lawyer or non-lawyer advocate, there is a high frequency of important medical records being forgotten. When the DDS case reviewer sees that needed records are missing from the file, they can take one of two actions. They can either use initiative to contact the healthcare provider themselves to try to obtain the documents, or they can reject the file as incomplete and send it back to the applicant to be resubmitted with it is complete.

Not surprisingly, the DDS workers can be very busy, even overwhelmed. It’s unrealistic to think that the DDS workers will expend much energy chasing documents that should have been included in the file before it was filed. Getting your SSD file returned as incomplete is an unnecessary and avoidable delay. An experienced, attentive, professional disability lawyer or trained advocate in a good organization would not have made such a wasteful error.

Poorly Prepared Disability Benefits Package

A related but separate cause of delays in processing disability claims is the overall poor state of the SSD claim package. An ideal SSD claim package is complete with all of the client’s medical records, including physical examination notes, lab results, x-ray and MRI reports, therapy notes, and a stream of records documenting the entire course of treatment by as many doctors as the client sought treatment from or consulted with.

But beyond mere completeness, your claim for SSD benefits should be well organized, and thoroughly prepared with the intent of making the file assessors’ job easier. The package should be arranged in a logical order that permits the assessor to flow from one document to the next while keeping the narrative of the client’s disability in sharp focus. There should be no need for the claim reviewer to go sifting back through previous documents to look for information that supports your claim.

Overwhelmed State Disability Determination Service Office

As we mentioned earlier, the first stop on your disability claim journey is your state’s DDS office where the preliminary assessment of the file is performed. Unfortunately, depending on where you reside and how many claims are backlogged at your state’s DDS office, it may be weeks or longer before someone even looks at your disability claim. If the office is operating under that kind of pressure, it’s possible that very little time will be devoted to your case. A cursory look and a quick decision can be bad news for the claimant.

Appealing After an Initial Denial

Finally, the worst-case scenario. If your disability claim is denied upon its initial review, an appeal will need to be filed within 60 days of your notice of the decision. A request for reconsideration will be filed first, but the odds of a reversal of the initial denial on reconsideration are slim.

An appeal of an SSD denial requires the expertise of experienced, skilled Social Security Disability advocates and specially trained advocates working together to prepare for a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). But the hearing date may be many months in the future. The wait for a hearing could be 9 to 18 months. Then a few more to await the ALJ’s notice of approval.

On the bright side, your back benefit payment would be very substantial when it finally arrives. Meanwhile, if this painful delay should occur, your disability advocate can help you file for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or other available public benefit programs to tide you over.

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