Social Security Disability Application Process

Millions of people suffer from disabilities and are unable to work because of this fact. For those who are faced with long-term and permanent disabling conditions, Social Security Disability benefits can help alleviate the financial burden of such situations. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the Social Security Disability application process or what to do if their initial application for disability benefits is denied.

Of the millions of applications received by the Social Security Administration (SSA) each year, only thirty percent are approved at the initial stage of the application process. What happens to the remaining 70 percent? If these applicants wish to move forward in order to receive Social Security Disability benefits, they must appeal the decision that was made during the initial stage of the Social Security Disability application process. Understanding the application and appeal process can make the process of applying for benefits clearer and less stressful.

There are five main stages of the Social Security Disability application and appeal process. It is important to understand that not all applicants will need to go through each of these stages, however. Thirty percent of applicants will only have to go through the first stage of the application process while others may have to go through all five stages to receive a favorable Social Security Disability determination.

The Initial Application

The first step in the Social Security Disability claim process is to file an application for disability benefits. During the initial stage you will submit your application to the SSA along with all of your medical evidence and supporting documentation. It can take between 90 to 120 days to complete this stage of the disability claims process. Only 30 percent of Social Security Disability applications will be approved at this stage of the process.

Reconsideration

If your initial claim for Social Security Disability benefits is denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal with the SSA. The first step of the appeal process is called a request for reconsideration. During this stage of the process your application will be sent back to the SSA for a second review. This process can take three to five months to complete and less than fifteen percent of appeals will be approved during this stage of appeals process.

Hearing

The Social Security Disability hearing is the second step of the appeal process. You have sixty days from the date of your denied reconsideration request to ask the SSA for a hearing. When you request a hearing, your case will be examined by an administrative law judge. This judge will review your case and can either approve your claim, send your case back for review, or deny your claim. This stage of the appeal process can take up to two years to complete. In 2009 the average completion time for this stage of the Social Security Disability appeal process was 491 days. Fortunately, 63 percent of hearing cases are decided in favor of the applicant.

Appeals Council

If you do not agree with the judge's decision regarding your claim for Social Security Disability benefits, you may appeal the decision with the Appeals Council. It is important to understand that fewer than 2 percent of Social Security Disability cases are won at this stage of the appeal process. The review by the Appeals Council will usually take between six months to one year to complete.

Federal District Court

If your claim is also denied by the Appeals Council, you may ask for your case to be reviewed in the Federal District Court. The Federal District Court can approve or deny your claim for Social Security Disability benefits or they may send your case back to the SSA for further review. Thirty percent of appeals are decided in favor of the applicant at this stage of the disability claims process.

Completing the Process

If you are interested in applying for benefits, your first step is to file an initial application with the SSA with the help of a qualified disability attorney. Hiring a qualified attorney can increase your chances of successfully obtaining Social Security Disability benefits from the SSA.

Certain states deviate from the normal application process and may require additional information. A local disability attorney will have a good knowledge about the special state disability rules and will be able to help you apply for disability benefits in your state.