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Disability application process involves lengthy wait times

California residents unable to work due to a disability are usually eligible for Social Security disability benefits. These benefits provide financial stability for elderly or retired individuals as well as those who can no longer work because of an injury. However, a complete understanding of the application process is necessary before applying.

More than one million people file for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration every year. Additionally, over $9 billion per month currently goes to approximately 8.5 million disabled workers through the Social Security Disability Insurance program. This equals out to an average monthly benefit of $1,110. However, qualifying for benefits can sometimes be challenging.

Eligibility for disability benefits

To qualify for benefits, an individual must meet the definition of "disabled." This means that physical or mental problems must be so severe that not only do they prevent the individual from doing the type of work he or she did in the past, they also prevent the applicant from working at any regular paying job for at least 12 months. Medical evidence of the disability is typically required.

In addition to meeting the requirements for medical disability, you must also qualify financially. For SSDI, you must have paid in to Social Security through payroll deductions for a certain period of time. The length of time required will depend on factors such as your age at the onset of your disability. You must also have paid in to Social Security recently (usually 5 out of the last 10 years prior to becoming disabled). For SSI disability benefits, your income must be minimal. How much depends on your particular situation.

Your attorney will review your earnings record and consider your age to determine whether you meet the earnings requirement of the Social Security Administration or whether you may qualify for SSI disability.

The application process

Applications are available online in the form of questionnaires. Detailed medical information must also be provided.

Once an application is submitted, a team that includes a medical or psychological advisor and a disability specialist reviews it. It takes an average of just over three months for an application to be reviewed. If the application is rejected, the individual has two months to file to have his or her application reconsidered.

If the application is rejected for a second time, the individual has two months to request a hearing with an administrative law judge. However, the average wait time for a hearing with an ALJ is currently around one year.

Thousands of new disability cases are filed each year. With the backlog of cases already in the system, wait times are likely to increase.

Additionally, two out of three applications for benefits are denied. However, experts are available to help navigate the Social Security benefit application process and increase the chance of receiving benefits.

Hiring an attorney to assist with the disability claim process is a wise investment because:

  • Attorneys possess specialized knowledge of the claims process
  • Rules of the system are often confusing
  • Odds of winning a case increase significantly

Whether they have applied for and been denied benefits or are just beginning the application process, California residents can benefit from the expertise provided by a qualified Social Security disability attorney. The attorney can provide knowledge and guidance and help obtain any available disability benefits.