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Social Security Disability Application Process and Timeline

Stage One - Initial Application

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After submitting you disability application, the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office for your area will make the initial determination. The entire process for Stage One takes about 3-5 months on average.  If your initial application is denied by the SSA, you can file an appeal.....go to Stage Two

Stage Two - Request for Reconsideration

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If you initial application is denied, you have sixty (60) days to file an appeal with the SSA. If you fail to file a timely appeal you will have to start the process all over again. The entire process between step one and two takes about 6-8 months on average.  If the SSA denies your appeal, you can then ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ... go to Stage Three

Stage Three - Request a Hearing

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If you Request for Reconsideration is denied, you have sixty (60) days to ask for a Hearing before an ALJ within the Social Security Administration. The Hearing would be held in your local Office of Hearing Operations, where  an Administrative Law Judge will decide your case.  The entire process for Step Three takes about 18-24 months. About 46% of total Hearing cases are approved. If the SSA denies your case, you can then file an appeal ...go to Stage Four

Stage Four - Appeals Council

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If an Administrative Law Judge has denied you claim, you have sixty (60) days to  appeal the Judge's decision to the Appeal Council.  The Appeals Council looks at all requests for review, but it may deny a request if it believes the hearing decision was supported and in accordance with social security law and regulations. The average wait time for an Appeals Council Review is about 12 months. The Appeals Council can affirm a decision, order a new hearing or reverse the decision. About 98% of Appeals Council cases are rejected. If the Appeals Council denies your case, you can file an appeal ... go to Stage Five

Stage Five - Federal District Court

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If you claim is denied by the Appeals Council, you can file a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration in Federal District Court. The Federal District Court can approve or deny your claim or they may remand your case back to the SSA for further review. About 70% of appeals in Federal District Courts are rejected. 

After You've Been Approved

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Once your application is approved, it will take some time to start receiving payments, usually about 3-4 months. First you will receive a Notice of Approval letter from SSA that will include details about:

  1. Your Disability Onset date
  2. Date you became eligible
  3. Amount of back pay you will be awarded and when you will be paid
  4. Amount you will receive in monthly benefits and when you will be paid