SSDI: The Patience Game

Applying for Social Security Disability is a game of patience. There are so many forms to complete and so many documents to supply.  Not easy.  But the greatest challenge is how long it takes.  Many people are surprised that if an initial claim is denied, the appeal process may be as short as two years, and as long as 3.5 years.

Why so long?  The volume of cases – huge – and the appeals.  If your application is denied (and 65% are), you are entitled to four levels of appeal. 

The appeals process looks something like  this:

Level % Allowed % Denied % Dismissed % Remanded* Time number of cases
Initial
application
35 65 na na 2-5
months
2,200,000
Recon-
sideration
13 87 na na 2-5
months
530,000
Admin.
Law Judge
45 35 21 na 18
months
560,000
Appeals Council 1 85 4 10 6-12
months
106,000
Federal
Court
2 8 42 48 12-24 months 18,000

Chart data by NOCSSR, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives, 2019. 

*Remanded means returned to a lower level of review.

Reconsideration, the first appeal, looks for mistakes in the decision on the application, and requires 2-5 months.  An Administrative Law Judge hearing, in which everything is reviewed with a fresh decision, requires up to 18 months.  The next appeal is to a board, the Appeals Council, which requires 6-12 months.  Finally, you have the right to appeal to the federal courts, and that usually takes 1-2 years.

Your best shot at approval is on the first round of application and review, so it pays to have experienced help with the application and appeal process.  35% of those first level applications are approved, and you want to be one of them.  We are proud to have an Applications Specialist in our office who makes the paperwork look easy.

It may help to see the process with our board game type diagram, “Social Security Disability: The Patience Game.” Here’s a sneak peak:

Small image of a game board diagram to explain The Patience Game.
Image of “Social Security Disability: The Patience Game”