If I could grant my clients one wish regarding their SSD claims — other than a guarantee of success — it would be to speed up the process for them. Although we take measures to minimize delays, the length of time each step takes is, for the most part, unavoidable.
Obtaining SSD benefits is a long, complex process. According to a report from the Social Security Administration from March, 2009, the average processing time for an initial application is 4-6 months, while the average processing time at the hearings level (the first appeal) is 12-24 months, from the date the hearing is requested. This wait time at the application level is fairly in line with what my office sees on a daily basis. The average wait time for the hearings level is a pretty wide range, but here in the Western New York region, claims at the hearings level typically take 18-22 months to process. According to SSA reports, we are in the bottom 4% with regard to hearing wait times.
While that wait time may be disappointing, do not let it discourage you. It still makes the most sense to appeal a denial from the initial level, rather than file again, because the chances are you will be denied again, which adds another 4-6 months to your overall wait. Also, by applying again rather than appealing, you may miss out on some benefits you may be entitled to. The approval rating at the hearing level is also much greater than at the application level.
Though it can be a frustrating process, while waiting for your claim to be processed, the keyword is “patience.”
During all this “hurry up and wait” there are a few things we want our clients to do.
We want you to stay treating with your doctors! Keep your appointments, follow up with specialists if that is what your doctor has instructed you to do, do not skip physical therapy or counseling appointments, and take your medications as prescribed. If you are referred to a new doctor, or if anything changes with your contact information, you undergo a procedure, or have a hospitalization, let us know. That way we can write to your treating providers and request the records from your visits. If we don’t know about the doctor, we can’t obtain the evidence.
Meanwhile, we will be checking in on you periodically, to see how your feeling, if you’ve seen any new doctors, and just to say “hi”!
As always, if you should need anything, or have a question, do not hesitate to call.