People need to be navigating very specific circumstances to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Generally speaking, applicants need to have a lengthy personal work history and a very serious medical condition. Most applicants only qualify for SSDI benefits when they have health challenges that completely prevent them from working. Those who can work but in a lower-paid profession may not qualify for SSDI benefits. The same is usually true in cases where someone cannot work but should likely recover from their condition in less than a year.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews every application carefully. However, sometimes the workers at the SSA make mistakes. They reject applications from those who likely qualify. Those applicants then have the right to appeal.
Appeals can help people secure benefits
A large portion of those applying for SSDI benefits may need to appeal to get the financial support they require. The appeals process begins with an internal reconsideration of the application. An SSA employee not involved in their initial application review can look over their documents to see if they potentially qualify. If that doesn’t lead to a benefits approval, the applicant can request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. How long does that process typically take?
Applicants usually wait months for hearings
Every SSA office sees a different level of demand for services and has a different team of professionals working there. Therefore, the average turnaround time on hearing requests can vary drastically from one location to another. The SSA does provide reports based on recent hearing records showing how long applicants have to wait for a judge to review their appeal.
The specific SSA office handling someone’s application impacts their wait time for a hearing. As of late 2023, the Chattanooga SSA reported an average wait time of 7.5 months, while the Knoxville office had a slightly longer eight-month average wait.
Applicants pursuing an appeal often need to look into alternate means of paying their bills until they complete the appeals process. They may also need an understanding of what the wait time might be so that they have realistic expectations about the process. Those who prevail, however, can secure backdated benefits to help them catch up on any past-due financial obligations.