Common Questions about social security disability

If you cannot work for an extended period due to injury or illness, Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may provide needed income. Application for SSD can seem complicated and confusing. This Q&A about the SSD claim process may help you.

Q: After I apply for benefits, when will I get them?

  • A: Approval is often a lengthy process. A decision can take from several months to several years.

Q: Why does it take so long?

  • A. A number of factors affect the time frame, such as: type of disability; accuracy of application and supporting materials; timeliness of submission; how long it takes SSA to receive medical records from your doctor; whether SSA schedules a medical exam for you; and a denial of your claim.

Q: Can I do anything about a denied claim?

  • A. You may request an appeal hearing.

Q. How long does it take to get the hearing?

  • A. It varies, depending on the state, but the average national wait time for a hearing is 11.7 months.

Q. Will I go to court?

  • A. No. An appeal hearing is held in the more relaxed environment of a conference room.

Q. Is someone from the SSA in charge of the hearing?

  • A. A special administrative law judge from the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) presides over appeal hearings. This judge is not involved in the first review of a claim and brings a fresh perspective to the case.

Q. What happens at an appeal hearing?

  • A. The procedure is less formal than a trial court, but microphones and audio recorders ensure an accurate record. You tell your story to the judge and answer his or her questions. On some occasions,the judge might dismiss the case before the hearing begins.

Q. Why would that happen?

  • A. If you didn’t submit your appeal request on time or failed to show up at the hearing, it could be dismissed.

Q. What if I was too ill to go? Would the dismissal be reversed?

  • A. Unlikely. That’s why it’s wise to have legal and expert assistance throughout the claim process. Your attorney ensures filing deadlines are met, all required paperwork is provided and any hearing rescheduled if you are unable to attend. The attorney also presents expert witnesses and assists at the hearing.

Q. How can I pay an attorney without any income?

  • A. The website explains how an experienced SS disability advocate guides your claim from beginning to end, at no cost unless your claim is approved. Your case is more likely to be successful with a specialist handling it than if you DIY.

Go to for more information about winning your SSD claim.

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