Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Disability Determination Notice

How long it takes for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to decide if someone has a disability can vary widely from applicant to applicant. In some cases, SSA may make a decision within a month or two. On average it takes about six months and in some cases, it may take a year or longer. When you get your disability determination notice, it will tell you whether your claim has been approved or denied.

If you’re waiting for a disability determination from Social Security and need immediate financial assistance, you should consider using your job's sick pay or vacation pay. If your company has a short-term or long-term disability insurance plan, you should look into that too.

Filing an Appeal

Many people are denied SSDI benefits. If you are denied benefits and you feel that Social Security’s decision is incorrect, you have the right to appeal. The appeals process takes time, but in the end, many appealed denials are reversed.

If you decide to file an appeal:

  • File your appeal quickly. After you get a denial letter, you have 60 days to file an appeal. If you don’t appeal within 60 days, you may not be able to appeal.
    • If you were already getting SSDI and are appealing an overpayment notice, appeal within 30 days to avoid having your benefits withheld while your appeal is reviewed.
    • Note: Social Security figures that you get a letter within five days after they sent it.
  • If you are denied SSDI benefits for medical reasons, you can file your appeal online or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY) and ask them to send you an appeal form. If you file online, you need to mail or deliver any new information to Social Security about your medical condition, including updates on any treatment, tests, or doctor visits.
  • If you are denied SSDI benefits for nonmedical reasons, you can request a review from your local Social Security office or by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).

Note: If your application for SSDI benefits is denied and you disagree with the decision, file an appeal. Do not just fill out the application forms again — that would be refiling.

The appeal process

There are four levels to the appeal process. If you are not satisfied with the result at each level, you can appeal to the next. The four levels are:

  1. Reconsideration: A person at Social Security who wasn’t involved in the first decision looks at your application. This is a paper appeal, so you don’t have to go in front of a judge. Give Social Security any new information you have about your case.
  2. Hearing: If the reconsideration is denied, you can ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. You can bring witnesses to help make your case. Consider having an attorney or representative help you.
  3. Appeals Council: Social Security’s Appeals Council will review your case if you appeal the Administrative Law Judge’s decision. The Council can accept the judge’s decision, decide the case for itself, or send it back to a different Administrative Law Judge for another hearing.
  4. Federal Court: If the Appeals Council decides against you, you can file a lawsuit in federal court.

For any level beyond the reconsideration, you may want to get help from a lawyer. NOSSCR is an association of attorneys and paralegals who represent people who think they’ve been unfairly denied Social Security benefits. You can reach NOSSCR at 1-800-431-2804.

When Social Security Checks to See if Your Situation Has Changed

Occasionally, Social Security will do two different types of Continuing Disability Review (CDR) to make sure you still qualify for SSDI benefits:

If Social Security contacts you, make sure to read everything they send you and follow any instructions they give. If you have trouble filling out a form or getting documentation, ask for help at your local Social Security office or talk to a benefits planner.

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