Even if you do everything right, the process to get Social Security Disability can take several months to years. If you are suddenly employed because of a disability, you probably need to have access to the benefits you deserve after your years of work.
There are ways to speed up the process, but you still have to take your time and fill out your initial application very carefully. Your initial application is your first chance to try to get SSDI, but only about 30% of people applying are approved during the initial application process.
The application has several parts, and you should do your best to fill out the application thoroughly and honestly. This should probably take at minimum a few days, and you should provide as much documentation as possible.
Even if you do not personally believe that certain jobs are relevant to the application, or if you believe that the work history might be negative, put it on your application anyway. Incomplete and inaccurate applications will add unnecessary time to the process and you could look dishonest if you are trying to keep the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from knowing certain information,
This might be the most important part of your application so you should present as much detailed information as possible. If you can, get a report from someone who is considered an expert in your condition. Include everything, including your medications and treatments, and proof that you are complying with your treatment. Submit the diagnosis and prognosis so that the ALJ will know that it will take at least a year for you to recover, if ever, from your condition.
Since most applications are denied the first time, you should get ready as though you expect to go to a hearing. Keep all your documentation handy and in a safe place, and continue to document your compliance with your doctor’s treatment plan. Check on your case regularly, and if you receive a denial, ask for a hearing within 60 days. It may be several months before you can get in for a hearing, but you will be defaulted if you do not respond in a timely manner. Keep the Court notified in case you move, because they will send notice of the hearing about 30 days before the hearing date.
Going By Yourself
Most people are not used to being in courtroom settings, and they are even less familiar with Disability law. You will be more comfortable and better prepared if you bring an attorney with you to your hearing. Choose an attorney with experience you can trust; legal fees are determined by law so a good attorney makes the same as one who does not return your calls.
The Hearing Itself
The average hearing wait time is between 8-18 months, according to the Social Security Administration Hearing and Appeals section. The hearing itself will be relatively short, about 15 minutes to an hour, as the ALJ will already have your application and all the evidence you presented with it. This is your chance to convince the ALJ that the first decision was wrong and that you should receive SSDI benefits.
The Appeals Process
It can take several months after the hearing to get a decision, but if you prevail, you will get a letter letting you know your benefits award. If you do not prevail, you are still allowed to appeal the decision. You again have 60 days to give notice to the Court that you plan to appeal the decision.
If you do not appeal, you can start over with a new application or give up on the prospect of getting SSDI. The Appeals Council will not re-evaluate the evidence from the hearing but instead will listen to your argument as to why the case was decided incorrectly. This could be because the judge incorrectly applied a rule of law, for instance. If you lose at the appeals process, you can still start over with a new claim, but if you do, you should look try to figure out why the first claim was not approved, probably with the aid of an SSDI Attorney.