If you’ve been denied Social Security disability benefits, you’re in good company. Most people who apply for SSDI are denied at first. Fortunately, a great many of those who stick it out and pursue the appeals process are ultimately approved.
The question of how many times you can go through the appeals process is a bit misleading, as it seems to suggest that you can repeat the process. In fact, there are multiple opportunities within the process, but you only get one chance at each. Here’s how the process goes.
Social Security Disability Appeals Process:
When you’ve been denied SSDI benefits, you can take the following steps:
Request reconsideration – this is a review of your application and supporting documents by the same section that initially denied your claim. A different decision-maker makes the determination, and you can submit additional information.
Request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) – if your claim is still denied on reconsideration, you can request a hearing. This is a more fully-developed appeal, where you can present witnesses and additional medical information to the decision-maker.
Request review by the Appeals Council – if the ALJ finds against you, you may request Appeals Council review. However, a Council hearing isn’t guaranteed. Only a small percentage of requests are scheduled for a hearing.
File a petition in federal district court – once you’ve exhausted every administrative possibility, you can file a civil suit in federal district court. This is the final step for most applicants whose claims have not been approved at an earlier stage.
Appeal the federal district court’s decision – some applicants who lose in federal court can file an appeal. However, this process requires specific grounds, and this option isn’t available to everyone.
So, in short, there are five possible stages of appeal after an SSDI denial. However, the ALJ hearing has the highest approval rate. That means most applicants never reach the later stages.
An applicant who has been denied disability benefits can apply all over again. Whether or not that is a good idea depends on a variety of factors, including the reason for the denial, how far you got in the appeals process, how much time has passed, and whether there have been changes in your medical condition since you last submitted information to the SSA in connection with your disability claim. Generally, it is better to continue along the appeals process than to reapply, for a variety of reasons. So, it’s essential to talk to a Social Security disability advocate to determine the best avenue to take.
To learn more about how Disability Help Group can help you, contact us or call (800) 800-2009 right now.
Most Common Conditions that Qualify for Long-Term Disability Benefits
The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides only long-term disability benefits. That means that the disabling condition must either have lasted or be expected to last for at least one year or to be expected to end in death. SSA provides a listing of disabling conditions and the criteria someone suffering from those conditions must meet in order to qualify for Social Security disability (SSDI) in the Social Security Blue Book.
The Blue Book isn’t a complete listing of medical conditions that may qualify a person for SSDI, though. You may be eligible for disability benefits based on a combination of conditions. And, some conditions are far more common among SSDI recipients than others.
The Five Most Common Conditions Leading to SSDI Awards
According to the SSA, the most common conditions leading to a Social Security disability benefits award in 2021 were:
Musculoskeletal system and connective tissue disorders (36.2%)
Neoplasms, or abnormal masses of tissue, which may or may not be cancerous (12.6%)
Mental disorders (12.1%)
Circulatory system issues (10.9%)
Diseases of the nervous system and sense organs (9.4%)
Within each category, some disorders are far more common than others. For instance, though the Blue Book lists several mental disorders, depression, bipolar disorder and related conditions made up more than ⅓ of mental disorder awards in 2021.
Just 18.8% of disabled worker awards in 2021 fell outside the five categories listed above. This balance has shifted over time. For example, in 1996, just 20.6% of those receiving SSDI benefits were receiving benefits for musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders. Across the next 25 years, that share increased from about ⅕ to more than ⅓.
What if My Condition Doesn’t Fall Into One of These Categories?
First, don’t worry! 18.8% seems like a small share for all other medical conditions, but in 2021 that 18.8% amounted to more than 100,000 disabled workers receiving new Social Security disability benefits awards. It’s also possible that your condition does fall into one of the most common categories and you just don’t recognize its technical classification. For example, before reading this post you may not have realized that cancer would be classified as “neoplasms.” Whether you are uncertain about qualifying for disability benefits or have applied for SSDI and been denied, Disability Help Group is here for you. To learn more about how we can help, call (800) 800-3332 right now, or fill out the contact form on this site.
Understanding Why Your Social Security Disability Claim Has Been Denied
Most Social Security disability (SSDI) claims are denied at first. The good news is that many claims that are initially denied are approved later, most often at the hearing stage. To give yourself the best chance of having your disability claim approved on reconsideration or appeal, it’s important to understand what went wrong with the initial application.
Some denials are easy to understand, and you can skip right to determining whether there is a way to fix the problem. For example:
Your denial notice may say that you don’t have enough Social Security work credits to qualify for disability benefits. In that case, you’ll want to carefully check the records against your actual work history to see if anything is missing. If you think the Social Security Administration (SSA) got it wrong, an experienced disability advocate can help you sort out the issue.
Your denial notice may say that you are earning too much money to qualify for benefits. Since many conditions worsen over time and it can take months to receive an initial determination, your ability to work may have been further compromised by the time you receive your denial.
Some denials aren’t quite so easy to understand. In part, that’s because of technical medical and legal jargon. But, it’s also partly because the most important question isn’t “Why did the SSA say I’m not eligible?” but “What about my application made the SSA conclude that I’m not eligible and what can I do about it?” An experienced disability benefits advocate can be a big help in answering that second question.
Determining What Your Disability Claim Denial Really Means
Imagine that the SSA sends you a notice saying that they recognize that you can no longer perform your previous job because of your medical condition. However, they have concluded that there are still other jobs you can do. So, you don’t qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
One explanation for that type of disability claim denial notice is that it’s true. For example, maybe you have limited mobility and that prevents you from going back into construction work. But, your work and educational history indicate that you would still be able to perform a number of other jobs that you’re still capable of doing with your medical condition.
Sometimes, though, the SSA mistakenly reaches that conclusion because you didn’t provide enough information, or your medical records weren’t specific enough. In that case, you may succeed in securing benefits at the reconsideration or appeal stage–but only if you know what to do differently as you move forward. That’s where Disability Help Group comes in. Our experienced advocates understand how Social Security disability claim denials work, and what type of supplemental information is likely to be helpful in overcoming that denial. If you’ve been denied SSDI, contact us now to learn more about how we can help. Call (800) 800-3332, or fill out our contact form.
What You Need to Know: Social Security and Long-Term Disability Benefits
Long-term disability insurance can be a great safety net. But, what happens if you have long-term disability and you would also be qualified for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI)? Understanding how these benefits work together can help with your planning while you’re healthy and working, and ease the path toward securing payments if you become disabled.
Does Long-Term Disability Insurance Disqualify You for SSDI?
Many people are concerned that long-term disability will make them ineligible for SSDI or reduce the amount of benefits available. Social Security disability is not need-based, which means most other income has no impact on eligibility. The main exception is income earned from work, since that income may demonstrate that you’re still able to participate in substantial gainful activity.
Private long-term disability benefits will not impact SSDI eligibility or the amount of benefits received. However, certain other types of disability benefits may affect SSDI. For example, if you are receiving long-term disability through workers’ compensation, you may still qualify for Social Security disability. However, there is a cap on the combined amount of benefits you may receive. So, your SSDI payments may be reduced.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is different. SSI is need-based, and the income cut-off is low. In 2023, it’s just $934/month. So, depending on the amount, long-term disability could disqualify a disabled person from receiving SSI benefits. In fact, many SSDI applicants are disqualified from SSI based on their SSDI income.
Does SSDI Affect Long-Term Disability Benefits?
The short answer is that it depends on your policy. Typically, a long-term disability insurance carrier will require beneficiaries who are qualified for Social Security disability to apply for those benefits. In that case, failing to apply for SSDI could mean losing long-term disability benefits. If you are receiving or have become eligible for private long-term disability benefits, make sure you know whether your policy requires you to apply for SSDI and what the time limit is.
Many policies provide that benefits will be reduced by the amount of SSDI received. For example, if you are receiving $2,000/month in private long-term disability benefits and are approved for $800/month in SSDI, the long-term disability payments may drop to $1,200/month.
Talk to a Disability Benefits Advocate
At Disability Help Group, we know how daunting and confusing coordinating disability benefits can be. We’re here to help make sure you receive all of the benefits you’re entitled to, and get them as quickly as possible. To learn more about how we can help, contact or call us (800) 800-3332.
Tips for Getting Your Disability Benefits Approved Fast
Social Security disability benefits offer an important lifeline to people who are no longer able to work. But, the application and appeals process can be lengthy. The delay in receiving benefits can mean a rough transition for someone who has lost their source of income. While there’s no magic bullet for getting benefits quickly, there are some steps you can take to keep your application for disability benefits moving forward smoothly and speed up approval.
How to Apply for SSDI for the Quickest Response
Speeding up the Social Security disability benefits approval process starts with your application.
Applying For Disability Benefits as Soon as You Become Disabled
For nearly all conditions, there’s a five-month waiting period. That means you don’t receive benefits until the sixth month after you become disabled. But, that doesn’t mean you should wait until the sixth month to apply. In 2021, the average processing time for an initial SSDI application was 147 days. That’s nearly five months, so get the ball rolling as soon as you have the necessary information.
The SSA says applying online can reduce the time it takes to receive a determination on your initial Social Security disability application.
Making Sure Your Disability Benefits Application is Complete
Missing information can mean delays or even a denial. The SSA offers a checklist of information you’ll need to apply, along with a worksheet to help you organize your work history and medical conditions. Take advantage of these tools to make sure your application is thorough. (And don’t be confused by the header that says these documents are for interview prep–the questions will be the same whether you apply online or live.)
Provide as Much Medical Information as Possible
SSA can help obtain medical records if necessary. But, the more information you include with the initial application, the more efficient the process.
Keep the SSDI Application Process Moving
Most initial applications are denied. A lot of Social Security disability applicants who are denied in the first round are later approved, so don’t get discouraged. But, don’t drag your feet, either. The sooner you move on to the next step in the process, the sooner you’ll get that next decision. And, there’s a deadline for each additional step. If you miss that, you may have to start from scratch, and that could delay the process by months.
A Social Security Disability Advocate Can Help
At Disability Help Group, we know it’s easy to get bogged down in the SSDI application and appeals process. Our team of caring, experienced advocates is here to help you navigate that process, avoid unnecessary delays, and improve your chances of approval. To learn more, call (800) 800-3332 right now, or fill out the contact form on this site.
How Long Does it Take to Get Social Security Disability Benefits?
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the average processing time for a new Social Security Disability (SSDI) application is three to six months. But, the average processing time varies from state to state. And, that estimate can be a bit misleading. That’s the average time SSA says you should expect to wait for an initial determination. But, a significant percentage of applications are denied at this stage. Working your way through the process of reconsideration and appeals can take much longer.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to speed up the initial application process and increase your chances of being approved earlier in the process.
Expediting Your SSDI Application
SSA doesn’t offer an expedited process for disability benefits, but you can take steps to make the process as efficient as possible. First, SSA says you can cut your processing time in half if you apply online.
Ensuring that your SSDI application is complete, you’ve provided all necessary documentation, and your medical providers promptly share necessary information can also help move the process forward. A Social Security Disability Benefits Advocate can be your best source of assistance in putting together a clear and complete application to give you the best chance of approval.
What if the Initial SSDI Application is Denied?
If your initial SSDI application is denied, the next step in most states is a request for reconsideration. This step is usually quicker than the initial application, but the success rate is low. The highest rate of approval occurs at the next stage: a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). However, it can take more than a year to get a hearing before an ALJ, and then several months to receive your determination. Those who are denied at this stage may require an additional step, or even two, to complete the process.
In short, a claim for Social Security disability benefits may be approved in just a few months, and you may begin receiving benefits as soon as six months after you become disabled. But, most SSDI application claims are denied in the initial rounds, meaning that many who apply for disability benefits don’t start receiving benefits for two years or more.
A Social Security Disability Advocate Can Help
Your best chance of receiving Social Security disability benefits as quickly as possible is to ensure that you avoid missteps in the process, don’t miss any appeal deadlines, and provide complete documentation to the SSA in a format that is easy to work with.
The process can be daunting. At Disability Help Group, we understand the process, and we understand the stress you’re under and how important it is for you to receive your disability benefits. To learn more about how we can help, call (800) 800-2009 or contact us right now.