Social Security Disability Timeline

There is a specific timeline in applying for Social Security disability. By being familiar with the steps in the process, the person knows whether or not his rights are being violated. If there is a doubt, check with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer. These are the stages in the Social Security disability timeline.

Initial step

The first step in getting Social Security disability is when you present your application. Once the application is received it takes approximately five months for them to make a decision. The application is processed at the District Office and then passed on to the Disability Determination Services. Here the Disability Examiner collects the evidence and requests medical records. If there are any doubts about the disability or if something needs to be clarified, he may schedule a Consultative Exam.

Once everything has been processed, a decision is made by a medical examiner, and the decision is sent to the applicant. At the same time the file is returned to the District Office. It is common knowledge that about 75 percent of the applications are denied at this point.


Whe the application is denied at the initial stage, the applicant may file a reconsideration appeal, and ask them to reconsider their decision. The file is resent to Disability Determination Services. Here it is checked again to see if there was any information that was overlooked, and any new information is examined.

A different medical examiner is assigned to the case, and he makes a decision. This takes approximately four months. Seventy to eighty percent of the applicants are denied at this level.


If the application is denied at the reconsideration level, the applicant may file a request for a hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge. There are some situations where an expedited hearing may be granted, but it normally takes 18 months to get a hearing. Often claims that were initially denied are approved at this stage.

Appeals council review

If the applicant is denied at the previous level, he may appeal to the Social Security disability appeals council. This council is the last decision maker within the Social Security department. Those within this department can make one of three decisions: order a new hearing, affirm the original hearing decision or reverse the decision.

Federal court appeal

If the claim is denied in the appeals council, the final stage is to bring a lawsuit against the Social Security department in a federal district court. The lawyer will argue that the decision granted is not supported by the evidence. Whatever decision is made at this level is the final decision.

When benefits are received

If everything goes smoothly and there are no denials, disability benefits are normally received in 120 to 180 days. Every denial signifies a longer wait before benefits are received. It is extremely important to present all of the necessary evidence with the application in the initial stage.

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