Social Security Disability Process: What to Expect

By Marie Lowery, Attorney

Initial Level

When the Social Security Administration receives an initial application, it is first reviewed to see whether the applicant has worked enough to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits or meets the requirements for Supplemental Security Income. If the necessary criteria are met, the application is sent to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) department for review.

The DDS office reviews the information and medical records provided with the application. If the examiner reviewing your case does not have enough medical documentation to make a determination, you may be referred for a consultative exam.

You will receive a decision in writing within 3 to 6 months after filing your initial application.

Reconsideration Level

If your initial application is denied, a request for reconsideration must be filed within 60 days of the initial denial notice.

At reconsideration, applications are reviewed by a different DDS examiner. During the reconsideration process you will want to provide updated information regarding visits to your doctor or any new treatments that you have undergone.

You will receive a decision in writing within 3 to 5 months after requesting reconsideration.

Hearing Level

If your Social Security Disability claim is denied at the initial and reconsideration levels, you must file a request for a hearing within 60 days of the reconsideration denial.

Currently, the wait time for a hearing at the Charleston office is 11 months from the date your request for hearing was filed. When your hearing is scheduled, you will receive notice of the hearing at least twenty days prior to the scheduled date.

Your chances of success are greatly increased with proper representation by an attorney knowledgeable about Social Security Disability claims at all levels of the application process.