The time it takes to get approved for disability benefits can vary greatly from person to person and from region to region. In the Carolinas, it usually takes about a year and a half on average to get a hearing before a judge. Usually a person applies for benefits and most people are denied in few months. Only about 1/3 of people are approved at the initial level. In our experience it does seem that a much greater percentage of people than that are denied at the initial level, but those are the official numbers. At that point you appeal the initial denial, and most people are denied again a few months later. Only a very small percentage of people are approved at the second stage of appeal, which is called reconsideration. It is called reconsideration because the same set of people who turned you down are considering your case again. At that point you request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). It is that hearing that takes just short of a year to get once you have requested it. The approval rate varies greatly from judge to judge. Some judges have an approval rate as high as 80%, other judges approve as little as 30% of cases. If this seems a little arbitrary to you, it is. Unfortunately a big part of whether or not you are approved for disability benefits turns on whose desk you land on. We can help you even up those odds with our knowledge of local standards and what works with the local judges.
It usually takes about 2-3 months to get a decision from the judge. It usually take about 2-3 months after that to get your back pay check and your regular monthly check started.
If the ALJ turns you down for benefits, you can appeal your case to the Appeals Council (“AC”). This can take anywhere from a few months to two years. If you win your appeal often your case is sent back to the ALJ for another hearing, which can take another 8 months or so, but that time period can be much shorter or much longer. If you are not successful at the AC level, you can appeal your decision to the federal district court. Very few cases are appealed to this level. However, we have a good deal of experience at the district court level. Although it is rare that a case would be appealed to this level we are prepared to do it if necessary.