Social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits are essential lifeblood for many people. It can be the sole source of income that someone has to pay for their bills and other essentials. Despite how primary this benefit is for so many people, the Social Security Administration still regularly denies claims for these benefits. An applicant can appeal this denial, but how long does the appeal take?

The procedures involved with SSDI benefits are extensive and thorough. The bureaucracy behind all of it is a slow-moving machine which can leave many people waiting. Knowing how long an appeal takes can help an applicant prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

What takes so long

There are several points along the appeals process that the Social Security Administration (SSA) can either approve or deny an appeal. From the initial denial, an applicant has 60 days to file an appeal. The SSA can take between three and six months to decide on the first appeal.

If the SSA denies the claim, an applicant can request a hearing by a judge within 60 days of the rejection. Historically, it has taken 12-18 months on average for a hearing to be scheduled from the time a hearing was requested.  Fortunately, SSA’s backlog has recently decreased, and wait times for hearings have also decreased.

If the judge denies the applicant’s appeal, the applicant can advance to the next step: an appeals council review. The Appeals Council will determine if the judge made the right decision, and the total wait time for this can take between 12 and 15 months on average.

If the Appeals Council denies the claim, the applicant and their attorney may file a lawsuit in federal court. These lawsuits can take months or longer to resolve.  If a claimant is successful in federal court, it usually means the federal court has ordered SSA to conduct a new hearing, which must be rescheduled.

Every case is unique

Depending on the severity of the illness or injury, the individual living needs of the applicant, and the application process, there is no universal answer for how long an appeal can take to receive approval. Receiving this approval can take a matter of months, or it can take several years. Unfortunately, an attorney cannot control how fast (or slow) the Social Security Administration is in processing claims and appeals.  However, an experienced attorney can help fully develop your case in order to put you in the best position to be successful earlier in the application process.