I'm asked this question every single day. The truth is, the only answer is, "it depends."
But, I can help you identify some things that will either resolve your disability case quicker, or certain things that will make your case take longer to receive an answer.
Here are the things that make your case go quicker:
1. Having everything turned in.
Finding a person disabled is not only about medical records supporting such an allegation. You also have to qualify financially (i.e. enough work credits or being below a certain threshold income and asset level). Just because you filed for Social Security disability, that is only the beginning. When a person responds quickly to his or her local SSA office and turns in all required documentation, then his or her case can be transferred to the state Disability Determination Service (DDS). If you want to speed your case up, read all correspondence and turn in everything requested as soon as possible.
2. Having most medical records at one location.
If you have only one treating source, this tends to make a person's case go faster. One of the reasons is that DDS is not waiting for medical records from multiple sources which always seems to take much longer. This is especially true if a person has been receiving treatment from a large county hospital which regularly sends medical records to DDS. Usually, the records can be received within a week's time rather than weeks or months with multiple treating sources.
3. Being above the age of 55.
The older a claimant is, the more the rules favor being found disabled. Once a person becomes 50 years old or older, the Medical-Vocational guidelines determine whether a person is disabled. This makes it much easier for the reviewing doctor to determine a person's case. Also, even if a person can perform at certain exertional levels for work, the rules may still dictate whether he or she is disabled. Because the rules govern so much in cases of those over the age of 50, this tends to speed a case up through the system.
4. Responding to all correspondence quickly.
It is not only medical records which determine if a person is disabled. A person's work history and their function report helps make the determination as well. When receiving these reports in the mail, it is important to fill them out as quickly as possible and send them back to your case manager at DDS.
5. Having sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI.
If a person has sufficient work credits to qualify initially for SSDI, then he or she does not need to go the extras step and qualify financially for SSI. This means the case does not stay within the SSA field office until the SSI application is received. This also means the case is then sent to DDS long before any SSI case. This ultimately can save a month or even two on the processing times for a case.
Things that slow down your case:
1. Multiple treating sources over a wide range of years.
Individual doctors are usually pretty bad about sending medical records when requested. When a person has multiple treating sources over multiple years, this also takes time to review the medical records. It slows the process, especially on the back end where a doctor will review the entire case to make a determination of disabled.
2. Having something happen medically while your case is pending.
If you do happen to have something bad occur while your case is pending, then it is very likely you will be placed on a medical hold for 3 months. At the end of the 3 months, only then will DDS start collecting medical records, which could take yet another 30 to 45 days. For example, if a person has surgery while his or her case is pending, DDS will place him or her on a medical hold for 90 days and then will order medical records.
3. Not responding to correspondence in a timely manner.
The single biggest delay for cases is people not responding to DDS questions in a timely manner. This is especially true for people not filling out their work history or function reports. At the very least, your case will be denied, but this will only be after it has been delayed due to noncompliance.
4. Being below the age of 50 and having mental impairments only.
If you are under the age of 50, you are going to have to show that you are unable to even perform sedentary work. If you only have a mental impairment that keeps you from working, then this makes it that much more difficult to win your case. If you are only alleging depression and anxiety, SSA is skeptical of such claims. Often, the reviewing doctor and ultimately the reviewing judge will find that while you may be depressed, it does not rise to the level of keeping you from working. The reason this makes a case go so long, is that a person below the age of 50 and only alleging a mental impairment, will likely have to go before an Administrative Law Judge to discuss the case. This will easily take 2 years given the amount of disability claims pending in the United States.
5. Moving out of state while your case is pending.
While all Social Security disability cases are federal, each individual local SSA office has jurisdiction over the claims in which the person lives. If you move from one state to another, your case must then be transferred to the correct corresponding SSA field office. This takes time, and it also takes time once the new local office has the case to get it going again. If you're missing needed items previously requested, this will slow your case down even further.
We help claimants throughout Texas and California fighting for their Social Security disability benefits. You can always feel free to call our office at: (888) 780-9125.