Why Do SSI and SSDI Applications Take So Long?

Individuals applying for Social Security Disability are required to fill out an initial Social Security Disability application. Unfortunately, this application process can take up to three or four months to complete. According to the Social Security Administration, approximately 30% of Social Security Disability applications are approved at this stage. The remainder of these claims must go on to appeal a denial of disability benefits.

The bottom line is that there are a growing number of individuals applying for Social Security Disability benefits, and fewer personnel in the Social Security Administration to process such applications. More complicated disability claims, including those that require extensive medical records and documentation, naturally take longer to process than a relatively simple application.

Applications that meet the SSA’s disability guidelines qualify more quickly during the initial application stage, and may be approved within three to four months of their initial application date. However, a larger number of Social Security Disability applicants don't provide adequate medical evidence to support their claim or their claim does not meet the very specific guidelines published by the Social Security Administration.

If initial claims for Social Security Disability benefits are denied, they then go through an appeals process. This can take six months or more, depending on the case, the documentation that is missing and the area of the nation that you live in.

Individuals who have had their initial SSDI application denied will receive a notice of the denial from the Social Security Administration. They then have up to 60 days to make an appeal. The first stage of the appeal process is called a Request for Reconsideration. Wait time ranges between three to six months on average, depending on the current caseload at your local Social Security office. Unfortunately between 80 and 90 percent of these appeals are also denied.

In the event that your Request for Reconsideration is denied, you have another 60 days to appeal that denial. At this point, you may already have waited up to 10 months, and unfortunately, the next stage of appeals may require that you wait another six months even more than two years. At this point, you'll have the opportunity to present your claim and case before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), but it can take years for your Social Security office to schedule a hearing date. In addition, individuals are required to travel to the location of the hearing within their geographical region, which may be several hours away from their homes. In some extreme cases, individuals may wait more than two years for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Personnel in the Social Security Administration carefully examine every application and disability claim. Your Social Security office personnel may already be overburdened with claims, and the research involved in examining every single case takes time.

The Social Security Administration is working on methods to streamline the process, but thousands of Social Security Disability applications still move very slowly through the system. Individuals dealing with a denial of application or claims may benefit from the services of a Social Security Disability lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the Social Security Administration and will be able offer advice and guidance in filling out paperwork and ensuring that adequate documentation accompanies each and every form throughout the approval process.