If you’re seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your quest for benefits, most likely, will be a long road.
But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Armed with knowledge and with the right legal team, you can set reasonable expectations for the journey ahead.
Working with the Atlanta Social Security office may feel like a daunting task. According to the Social Security Administration, as of December of 2016, over 10 million people were receiving Social Security Disability benefits, and millions of Americans apply each year. If you are one of them, it’s important that you know that only 30% are approved for benefits at the initial level of application.
So, what happens to the other 70% of claimants who are denied Social Security disability at the initial level? What can you expect next?
The Four Levels of Appeal
Hearing by and administrative law judge
Review by the Appeals Council
Federal Court review
If your initial application is denied, your next available step is to exercise your right to request a reconsideration of the first decision. Many are denied, so don’t be discouraged. In fact, the prudent way to approach the entire process is to expect a denial, and be prepared ahead of time to apply for reconsideration.
How Long Can Reconsideration Take?
If you receive a denial at the initial stage of your disability benefits process, your next step is to request reconsideration. This means that you’re asking the SSA to take a second look at your case. During reconsideration, an adjudicator will assess your claim and you will have the opportunity to resubmit updated medical records.
Reconsideration can take three-to-five months, but a decision can come back in as soon as eight weeks. If you are denied at the reconsideration stage, you can request a hearing. It’s estimated that over 80% of reconsideration cases are denied. Your only recourse at this point is to request a hearing.
Within 60 days of receiving a denial following reconsideration, you can ask the SSA for a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). You must make this request in writing. You’ll then be notified via mail which hearing office has jurisdiction over your case.
What’s the Average Wait Time for a Hearing?
Generally, most people must wait a significant amount of time for a hearing to be scheduled. The wait time can be up to a year from when the hearing is requested.
At this point, you and your case have already been in the system for probably several months. If you’re waiting in the Atlanta Social Security office system, it’s important that you know that the average wait time for a hearing is 14.6 months.
The Macon, Georgia, jurisdiction has the longest wait time, at 19 months.
Cases that are neither approved or denied are dismissed.
Can I Expedite the Process?
It’s easy to see that some jurisdictions can be more heavily overloaded than others. So, depending on what part of the country you live in, your wait time for a hearing may be faster than for someone living in another geographical area. Overall, keep in mind that it can be a slow and tedious process at the best of times.
The hearing office will do what they can to speed up the process, but there is, of course, no guarantee that their efforts will be successful. If you suffer from a significant medical or mental impairment, or if you are in a situation of dire financial hardship, you may be granted dire need status. When dire need status is granted, the case in question will be flagged and expedited--for real in this case--at the hearing office.
That's an on-the-record decision. If your medical condition is serious and urgent enough that you can have a judge look at your case immediately, they can make a decision without having a hearing, but that sort of cut-and-dried situation is very rare. In most instances, you are with the thousands of others who are each in line for a hearing. While you wait, you can use that time to work with your attorney to make sure that your medical records are complete, accurate, and that everything possible is set to help build your case before the judge.
Your medical records can best build your case by clearly showing a connection between your injury or condition and your ability to work.
Waiting for your hearing can seem to take an eternity. But you’re not alone in this trying time. The right legal team can help you navigate the complex system of appealing for the benefits you deserve. The most important thing is to realize that you are not alone in your quest to successfully apply for the disability benefits that will make life simpler. We offer free case evaluations and can give your sound legal advice regarding your case.
We’re Affleck & Gordon
You don’t have to navigate your social security disability claim alone. We are here to help our clients win the disability that they deserve, and we understand how stressful the process can be. We’ve helped over 40,000 people in Georgia receive disability, workers’ compensation, or Veterans disability for over 45 years. We’re here to help you, too.
If your Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 45 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.