Stages of a Disability Claim

people-2A claim for Social Security Disability benefits occurs in six stages. Based on our experience and most current trends, this chart can help you understand why an individual case could take several years to settle. This is why we work so hard to expedite your case.


Timing Estimate (from beginning of each stage)

1. Initial ApplicationAll correct application forms and supporting medical evidence is filed with Social Security. An initial decision granting or denying benefits takes up to six months.
2. ReconsiderationIf denied, a Request for Reconsideration must be made within 60 days. Additional medical evidence must be presented to support Reconsideration. A Reconsideration decision takes from 45 days to six months. Cessation cases, where you have been receiving benefits and are found to be no longer disabled, may take up to two years.
3. HearingIf a claim is denied after Reconsideration, a Request for a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge must be made within 60 days. The Judge will hear your testimony, examine medical evidence and listen to lawyers arguments.

This is your most critical stage, because at this stage prior denials are frequently reversed in the clients favor.

It currently takes 13 months or more for an individual case to reach a Hearing.
4. Hearing Decision Generally, depending on the Judge and the case, you will receive a Hearing decision between two and eight months after the date of your Hearing.
5. Appeals CouncilIf a claim is denied after a Hearing, a written appeal can be filed with the Social Security Administrations Appeals Council. The Appeals Council reviews your case to determine whether the Hearing was fair. If an appeal is granted, your case goes back to the Administrative Law Judge for further consideration. An appeal will take from six to 16 months following filing for a decision.
6. Federal Court AppealIf an appeal is denied, a request for review by the Federal District Court must be made within 60 days. The Federal Judge can award benefits, deny the claim, or send the case back for an additional Hearing. This is the only time the process actually takes place outside the Social Security Administration. A Federal Court case takes from 18 to 30 months after filing.