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The waiting game: How long does it take to receive SSD benefits?

On Behalf of | Sep 30, 2021 | Social Security Disability Benefits for Illnesses

As long as you qualify for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits, you know that in time, you will receive the much-needed funds to help support you and your family. However, you may have to brace yourself for some unexpected news and that a great amount of patience is necessary.

Expect to wait nearly a year or more before receiving the disability benefits. And just remain optimistic that no additional challenges arise during that time. After all, there have been numerous cases in which the waiting recipient either filed for bankruptcy or even died before that first disability payment arrived.

Apply, wait, appeal, wait

It is crucial to apply for SSD benefits the minute you suspect that your physical or mental health malady no longer makes it possible for you to work. It works to your advantage to not procrastinate. The sooner your application arrives with the Social Security Administration (SSA), the sooner your application gets reviewed and approved.

But even upon approval, expect the waiting to continue before receiving your benefits. Why does it take so long? The SSA remains cautious and careful in its dealings. Here is a timeline related to the steps needed when applying and obtaining SSD benefits:

  • After receiving an application for benefits, the SSA reviews them, taking three to five months before accepting or rejecting the application. If the SSA accepts an application, though, you will not get them right away. You must wait the required five months before obtaining them. So, in the best-case scenario, you could get SSD benefits in eight months.
  • If the SSA rejects your application, count yourself among the two-thirds of all initial applicants who receive such news. Do not worry. File an appeal in writing right away. You have 60 days to do so.
  • An administrative law judge reviews your case during the appeal and hears supporting evidence. The judge may take up to three months before forming a decision.
  • As long as the judge rules in your favor, you shall receive the benefits. But you must continue to wait because people who qualify for SSD benefits must be disabled for five consecutive months before receiving them.

As noted earlier, some applicants suffer additional hardship while awaiting the outcome of their appeal. An estimated 1.3% of SSD applicants annually filed for bankruptcy between 2014 and 2019, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). And 1.2% died each year during the 12-year period from 2008 to 2019 before the SSA decided on their case.

If you are no longer able to work for at least a year, promptly seek SSD benefits. But understand that you must take several steps and, if you qualify for the benefits, wait more than you expected before receiving them.