How Long Do you have to be disabled to Get Disability Benefits?
The Social Security definition of disability states that an individual must have a medically determinable mental or physical impairment that A) has prevented them from working at a substantial level for twelve months; or B) is expected to prevent them from working for twelve continuous months; or C) is expected to result in death.
As you can see by the definition of disability, an individual must be disabled and unable to work for at least a twelve month continuous period before they might be determined disabled and eligible to receive disability benefits.
If you consider the preceding information and the fact that most initial disability claims and reconsiderations appeals are denied, most individuals will find themselves, at some point, involved (or mired) in the disability appeal process. The disability appeal process begins with the reconsideration of an initial disability claim decision and can go all the way to the Federal Courts. However, most claims that enter the appeal system will end with the administrative law judge hearing or an Appeals Council Review.
How does all of this affect how long you have to be disabled to get disability benefits? Well to attach a timeframe to it, an individual must first consider that it till take an average of thirty to one hundred days to get their first decision and if that decision is denied they may have to wait thirty to sixty days (sometimes, of course, reconsideration appeals, for various reasons, take much longer) for a reconsideration appeal decision. If the "recon" is also denied--and statistically speaking it usually is--they may be waiting over a year for their next appeal, a social security hearing...which, in all candor, these days will take up to two years or longer.
Bear in mind, of course, that this timeframe does not even consider the two month window that exists for claimants to actually file each appeal and which, unfortunately, many claimants utilize completely (tip: if you get denied, don't wait to file your appeal, but, instead, do it immediately to save time on your case).
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