UNDERSTANDING Social Security: It’s A Long, Long Wait To Get SSI, SSD

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BY MICHAEL P. BOYLE, ESQ./ Last week I addressed the premise that the disability (SSD) and SSI programs represent “welfare” payments. I will follow up in this column by emphasizing that the process of receiving SSD and SSI benefits is, for many people, long and difficult.

When you file an application for benefits, you must provide SSA with a substantial amount of information about your medical treatment, your physical and mental limitations, your work history, and your daily routine. For most applicants, SSA will schedule a consultative examination with a doctor or psychologist.
Medical consultants employed by SSA review the medical records of applicants to determine whether they meet or equal a listing and to assess their ability to perform the physical and mental demands of work.

Nationally, about 2/3 of applications are denied. If you are denied, you must file for reconsideration or for a hearing before a judge if you wish to pursue your claim.
Waiting to get a hearing date can take a year or longer after you file a request for hearing. If you win your claim before a judge, expect to wait several months after that before you start to receive current and lump-sum benefits.

If you receive workers’-compensation benefits, you can anticipate longer delays as SSA tries to obtain information about these benefits to conduct its offset analysis.
If you lose before the judge and wish to appeal, expect substantial delays as you wait for the Appeals Council to work its way through its extensive backlog of cases. This can take a year or longer.

If the Appeals Council denies your request for review, you can appeal to federal court. This process can take more than a year as well. If a federal judge rules in your favor, she will generally send the case back to SSA to conduct a new hearing. If you are lucky, the ALJ will now grant your claim, and you will at last receive benefits.
At this point, more than five years will likely have passed since you filed your claim.

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