SSDI Claims Process
What is the SSDI claims process like? What happens once you file a claim for Social Security Disability benefits?
In this article, our North Carolina disability lawyers will walk through the SSDI claims process and what you can expect when applying for disability (or appealing a denial). If you need help with a disability claim, call 1-800-525-7111 for a FREE, no-obligation consultation with our disability team.
SSDI Claim Process: Submitting a Disability Claim
When you apply for disability, first, your claim is evaluated by an employee of a North Carolina state agency called Disability Determination Services (DDS). This Disability Examiner will look at your age, education, employment history, and medical records to see if you meet the criteria for “disabled” as that term is defined by the Social Security Agency, a process that usually takes three to four months. If you do meet the criteria, your claim will be approved and your benefits will be paid fairly quickly. However, less than a third of claims are approved at this initial level.
If Your Claim is Not Approved at the Initial Level
If your disability claim is not approved at the initial level (and most aren’t), and if you appeal this initial-level denial, then a different Disability Examiner will review your claim to see if the first one missed or misinterpreted any evidence in a process called “reconsideration.” A very small percentage of claims that were denied at the initial level are later approved at the reconsideration level, something in the order of 10%, and the process usually takes another two or three months, or sometimes more if the claim is complex.
If you are among that fortunate minority who has their initial denial overturned at the reconsideration level, then your benefits will be processed and paid within a few weeks. If your claim is again denied at the reconsideration phase and you still want to pursue it, then you must file a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
Appealing for Disability at the Hearing Level
Your request for an ALJ hearing normally takes from eight to ten months to be processed and set for hearing. At the hearing, you and your attorney can present testimony of you and your witnesses, present other evidence, and question the vocational (jobs) information presented by a vocational expert witness.
During the Covid-19 pandemic (since March of 2020), ALJ hearings have been conducted by conference call (telephone) rather than in person as they had been. We anticipate that after the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided, increasing numbers of hearings will be conducted via either video conferences (e.g., Zoom calls) or conference calls. The SSA is always looking for ways to cut costs, and fewer physical hearing offices means lower costs.
After the ALJ Hearing
Once your ALJ hearing is held, a written decision is generated and mailed to you and your attorney, a process that usually takes six to eight weeks. If it is favorable to you, your benefits will be processed and paid within about a month. If it is unfavorable, you again have the right to appeal the denial to the next level up the chain of command, called the Appeals Council.
The Appeals Council will either reaffirm the ALJ’s decision (which they do about 85% of the time) or remand it back to the ALJ to fix any errors they find.
For more information on the odds your disability appeal will be successful, check out our helpful guide.
Talk with a North Carolina Disability Lawyer
Need help with the SSDI claims process?
If your disability claim has been denied and you are seeking representation in order to schedule a hearing or appeal your denied claim, our North Carolina disability attorneys are ready to help. Having a knowledgeable attorney, especially a Board-Certified Specialist like our lead disability attorney, Scott Scurfield, on your side can ensure that you receive a fair assessment of your SSDI claim.
For a FREE consultation with an experienced North Carolina disability lawyer, please call 1-800-525-7111.
The consultation is free and we don’t get paid unless you get disability benefits. The SSD claims process is confusing and we can help you navigate the entire process from beginning to end.
Call 1-800-525-7111 and let’s review your claim.
“Without your help, I would not have received my Social Security disability benefits.”
–Charlotte R., Riddle & Brantley client
We have convenient offices throughout North Carolina and can even consult with you by phone, email, text, or video conference. No in-person meeting is required to get started on your case.
Call 1-800-525-7111 to connect with our Social Security disability team and let’s review your case.
Justice Counts for North Carolinians with disabilities and we are ready to help however we can.