Application Process

The SSA has made it convenient to apply for benefits. If you are good on the computer or have a family member or trusted friend to help you, I think it is best to apply on-line. Just be very complete in answering the questions. Don’t leave things out of your answers. Print copies of everything you submit or save it to your computer. It is essential to adhere to the SSA timelines in the process. Go to Please make sure you have that address and not some company that is trying to get more business.

The burden of proof is on the applicant. The SSA calls the applicant a claimant. You must prove, bottom line, you cannot work.

Appeals Process

If you have been denied, it makes sense to talk to a representative who works primarily in the SSA arena. Bottom line, you may wonder can I get some benefits. Statistically, you are most likely to get benefits after the hearing. There are all kinds of variables but about 50% to 55% of cases are approved at the hearing level. Some hearings have been held only a few months from the date a person requests a hearing; but most hearings seem to take longer to be scheduled, usually about a year and often approaching two years. During the wait, things can become difficult. You can write a dire need letter. The letter needs to be specific and outline the financial hardships you face. Send it to me and I will submit it to the hearing office. Sometimes, the hearing office will also require proof of financial hardship like eviction notices, or electric shut off notices, etc. Also, you can contact your congressman and ask if there is anything they can do to expedite your hearing. For general assistance with other needs click here.

After the hearing, it often takes two to three months, as a general rule, for a decision to be issued. After that, if we win, it takes a month or two for current benefits to start being paid. From the date of the decision it can take from one to five or six months for all back benefits to be paid. Thus, all this takes a long time, much longer than it should. There are few opportunities for a representative to speed things up.

But, the first step is the initial application. I expect a 4 to 6 month wait for a decision. About 30% of claims are approved at the initial level. If approved, your case will go into pay after the 5 month waiting period is satisfied. That is, from the date of established disability, 5 months pass before the first check is issued. The SSA pays one month late. So, the check for August is paid in September. During this first phase, they will send you papers. In addition, they may send you to see one of their doctors. The SSA will order the medical records in your case. It is a good idea to let your doctor(s) know you are applying for disability from the SSA.

If the case is denied at the initial stage, then file a reconsideration request. That will take 4 to 6 more months. About 15% of cases are approved at the reconsideration level. If a loss at the reconsideration level, then file for a hearing. Don’t give up.

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