Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, and Supplemental Security Income
Please keep in mind, all the timelines in this document are nothing more than estimates based on the current timelines. The only thing that is certain is the 60-day appeal deadlines. Social Security operates at their own pace, and sometimes cases can move more quickly or more slowly depending on a number of factors beyond the control of you or your representative.
If you are disabled and unable to work, you may feel it in your interest to apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). You start this process by filing either online at SSA.gov, or by calling Social Security’s national hotline at (800) 772-1213. Be advised that many times, if you call to begin your application, they may do a very basic intake at the initial phone call and schedule the appointment for full intake at a later time (usually not more than a few days to a couple of weeks). Expect that for the intake, you’ll need to have available your basic biographical information as well as a list of your treating doctors.
Once you have filed your claim, it will be pending at what is commonly referred to as the “initial level,” where it is reviewed by case workers at Disability Determination Services (DDS is a local state agency that contracts with SSA). You may, periodically, be expected to fill out forms such as a medical Authorization, list of treaters, work history report, work background form, and medication list. This is all part of the normal process. After about 3-5 months, DDS usually issues a determination. They will send you a letter that explains if your case was granted or denied. This letter usually contains both a list of the treating sources they reviewed, as well as a brief explanation for their decision.
If you get denied at the initial level, you have 60 (sixty) days from the date of the denial to file that appeal. You file an appeal by submitting a request for reconsideration. What you are doing, is exactly what it sounds like. You are requesting that the SSA reconsider its decision. Once you have filed that appeal, your case will now be pending at the reconsideration level. At the reconsideration level, DDS continues to develop the medical record and evaluate your case. Again, this process will usually take roughly 3-5 months.
If they deny your case again at the reconsideration level, you can appeal again by filing a request for hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Again, you have 60 (sixty) days from the date of the denial at reconsideration to file this appeal. At this point, your case would be transferred to the local Office of Hearings Operations (OHO). In CT we have two such offices. One is in New Haven and serves the lower part of the state. The northern portion of the state is covered by the Hartford OHO. Your case will usually pend at this level for roughly 6-9 months until you get a hearing with an ALJ. At that hearing, an ALJ who has read your medical records will take your testimony as well as the testimony of a vocational expert and determine if you are disabled under the SSA’s rules.
If you are denied by the ALJ, you have 60 days to appeal the ALJ decision by filing a form 520, request for review form with the Appeals Council (AC). While your case is at the AC, they will review the ALJ decision for any potentially reversible errors. The AC has been known to take anywhere from a few months up to over a year to respond.
At this point, you have exhausted the administrative remedies within the Social Security Administration. Any further appeal would require a lawsuit being brought in the United States District Court and falls outside the scope of this document.
The information on this page was provided by Our Professional Advisory Board Member Benjamin M. Shapiro. Attorney Shapiro specializes in Disability cases throughout Connecticut. He is a member of the Connecticut Bar Association with over a decade of active practice in the field of Social Security Disability and before that he has extensive experience working for the Social Security Administration.