Sunday, October 14, 2007

Process of Applying for Social Security Disability - it takes patience

Over the past few years, I've spoken to hundreds, if not thousands of individuals who have been forced by the severity of their condition to file for disability benefits with social security. And, in many of those conversations, I've listened to the claimant's expectation that a decision would be reached on their SSD or SSI case within a very short time. At such moments, I've often felt compelled to inform the individual that the wait for a disability decision can actually be much longer than they've told by someone at their local social security office.

First of all, are social security employees lying when they inform new applicants that they should receive a decision within ninety to one hundred days? No, simply because they are quoting averages. However, "averages" can be deceptive. Though, a great many cases are decided within this time frame, for many individuals the process of applying for social security disability can drag on for six months or longer.

This doesn't always happen, of course. But it does happen fairly often that a social security disability claim will take half a year or longer to render a disability determination.

Why do some cases take this long (or, unfortunately, longer)? There are a number of factors that come into play. Usually, however, the long wait is due to the fact that the disability examiner (the individual who actually makes the decision on the case) is having difficulty getting all the medical records together. The examiner certainly has every incentive to get the medical records quickly because this is how their job performance is evaluated (how fast they close cases); however, in many situations, it is simply out of the examiner's control. In other words, some hospitals and doctors offices are extremely deficient when it comes to processing requests for medical records.

What should you do if you applied for disability and have not received a decision in three to four months? You should call and ask for the status of the disability claim. Who should you call? You can call the social security office, of course, but that is not where the medical decision is made so they will be unable to give you much information other than the fact that no decision has been reached yet.

For the actual status of your case (if your case is pending at the application or reconsideration appeal level), you should get the number for the state disability agency---usually called Disability Determination Services, depending on your particular state---and then contact the specific disability examiner who has been assigned to your case. The number for DDS, by the way, can be obtained from the social security office where you applied for disability.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog