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How long does an SSDI benefits appeal actually take?

The average person doesn’t spend much time thinking about disability benefits. People readily accept jobs that don’t offer disability coverage because they assume that the likelihood of them developing a long-term health issue is minimal. However, disability coverage exists for a reason.

The average person has no way of knowing when they might get into a car crash or experience a sudden development of symptoms related to a long-dormant, inherited malady. To ensure that those who have enjoyed and otherwise healthy life don’t end up destitute and unable to support themselves, the Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees several disability benefit programs in addition to retirement benefits.

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit system helps adults who have contributed toward Social Security cover cost-of-living expenses when they become medically unable to work before they are old enough to officially retire. Many applicants do not get approved initially and may need to appeal. How long must an applicant wait during the appeals process for the benefits that they likely needed immediately when they applied?

Location determines the wait time

The SSA is somewhat notorious for having extended processing times. That is certainly true for those appealing an unfavorable decision. The exact turnaround time on appeals varies drastically. Some people receive approval during the reconsideration stage, which might mean that they get benefits just a few weeks after receiving a rejection notice from the SSA.

Other applicants have to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge to prevail during the benefits claim. Those applicants could end up waiting a year or more to complete the appeals process. According to data shared by the SSA in January 2024, applicants appealing an unfavorable decision through the St. Louis office can expect a nine-month wait for a hearing.

Appealing is often worthwhile

The idea of waiting the better part of the year to get benefits when someone cannot work is unappealing, to say the least. However, it is often the option that leads to the highest amount of compensation for the person with the disabling medical condition.

Someone who secures benefits during an SSDI appeal can receive backdated benefits. The SSA can pay a lump sum to make up for the benefits they should have received after they initially became eligible. Those who reapply lose the right to secure backdated benefits, which is one of several reasons why appeals are often the best solution for someone contending with a denied SSDI application.

Knowing how long the process could take may help people better plan to manage the challenges inherent in an SSDI benefits appeal.