People are often perplexed as to why it takes so long for the Social Security Administration to make a decision on their disability claim. There's a couple of answers to this question, but first there is also the need to understand the steps each claim must go through.
First, there is the initial application for your Social Security disability benefits. Once the application is received, it is sent to the local Social Security office that will ultimately handle your case.
Next, after all preliminary issues are resolved, your case is actually sent to a state disability agency. The claims examiner will then retrieve the medical records from your medical sources to help make a determination on your case. Also, you will be asked to fill out a Work History and Function Report. If your records are not sufficient to make a determination, you will then be sent to a consultative examination to be seen by a doctor paid by the Social Security Administration.
If you are not successful at the initial stage, you will be denied and a reconsideration of your case will be done after your first appeal. If you are denied again, then you will have to appeal a second time, in which your case will then be transferred to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. From there, you will likely have to wait 10 months or more to have your case heard by an administrative law judge.
So, now getting back to the question as to why your case is taking so long.
There are many answers to this question, and no one answer may be perfect.
First, just the amount of disability claims filed on a yearly basis is staggering. Many people feel that because they have a physical or mental illness, they are entitled to disability benefits. However, because Social Security awards benefits only after a 5-step evaluation of your case is successfully completed, this process takes a considerable amount of time.
Second, if you are not successful in your first initial application for disability benefits, you must go through the process again during the reconsideration phase. Again, this takes time and if you are denied again, you must get in line to have a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Third, a contributing factor to the amount of time it takes to resolve a case is that the Social Security Administration uses a state agency in each individual state to gather medical evidence and help make a determination in your case. There again, this takes time to gather the preliminary evidence and then transfer the file to a state agency. From there, your case is assigned to a claims examiner who likely has many cases he or she is dealing with at any given time.
Fourth, have you ever tried to order medical records before? It can sometimes take a month or more to receive them. If you can only imagine how many medical records requests are made to large county hospitals on a daily basis just from Social Security. Many times, the delay is just in the hospitals sending out your medical records. If you have a long history of an illness with many medical providers, this could easily explain why there is a delay in your approval or denial of benefits.
Lastly, believe it or not, the people who make decisions regarding whether or not you are disabled, actually take their job very seriously. Reviewing a claim takes time. If there is a large amount of medical evidence, then the process takes even longer. Referring back to the 5-step sequential process the Social Security Administration uses to determine whether or not you are disabled is no easy task. Over time, each step has taken on a somewhat life of its own, so this has become very complicated. You have to remember, just because you are ill or have a medical condition which limits your ability to do the last job you were doing, you may be able to adjust to some other type of work. At the very essence of determining whether or not someone is disabled, you have to not be able to do what kind of work you have done in the past and you must not be able to do some other type of job either.