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Applying and Appeals for Social Security

Unable to work because of a mental or physical impairment? If so, and it could possibly last more than a year, then you should apply for Social Security Disability and/or SSI benefits. However, be aware that it can take a while and you may go through a few appeals.

When you first apply

Applying and Appeals for Social SecurityWhen you first apply, it can take around three to six months. It’s possibly to only take a couple of weeks, but three to six months is the norm.

Around 33% of claims are permitted at first, 67% are denied.

Round two/Reconsideration

If you don’t get approved after your first try, you are one of the 67% who experienced initial denial. You must file a request for reconsideration within 60 days of the initial denial. Review of this request could take one to eight months.

Around 11% of appeals are permitted at first reconsideration and 89% are denied.

Hearing before a judge

If you’re denied again, then you have 60 days to file a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. This can take 10 to 16 months until your hearing is scheduled and another one to four months for the judge to make a decision after the hearing.

Generally, around 48% of the claims are permitted after a hearing and 35% of them are again denied. 17 % of claims are dismissed at this level. Dismissals are usually due to failure to appear at the hearing.


If you’re one of the 35% denied at the hearing level, you may appeal to the Appeals Council. This is what’s called a “paper appeal” and must be filed within 60 days. You should do this by certified mail to prove that you did it in a timely manner.

It usually takes the Appeals Council six months to three years to review a claim and they usually only permit about 1% of them.

Federal Court

The final administrative level of review is the Appeals Council, so if you wish to appeal further, you must file a lawsuit in Federal District Court.

This can take around 10 to 12 months but can be much longer in some areas. Usually, 44% of appeals are reversed here and 46% of the time, they uphold the council’s decision. 9% are dismissed.

If you’re still denied at Federal District Court, you may appeal to the Federal Circuit Court.

An attorney can really be of real assistance at all levels of appeal, Most representatives charge a fee contingent upon winning your claim, at a rate of 25% of your back-award or $6,000, whichever is less.