HOW LONG MUST I WAIT FOR MY SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY CLAIM TO BE GRANTED?
Unfortunately, I cannot sugar coat this. Acceptance rates at the initial stages of applying for Social Security Disability are very low nationwide. Any Google search will confirm what I am about to tell you. The average wait time for a hearing in this general Tampa Bay jurisdiction is 580 days. There are statistical facts that reflect the present system show that acceptance rates generally are at about 25% at the initial stage and 3-13% at the reconsideration stage and then at the hearing stage, it all depends on the judge and strength of the medical record and advocate. Some judges have acceptance rates as low as 25%, others as high as 90%, for which the judges with higher “pay” rates take a pasting by the press.
At the hearing level, it seems that the SSA schedules the cases for those who are over 55 for hearing first because vocationally they are most likely to be approved first and gotten out of the system. Those who are under 55 but over 50 are next, and so on. An attorney or representative does not assign the judges or schedule the cases to be heard. The Social Security Administration does. That is something neither we nor any other attorney or representative has any control over.
Once the case is at hearing level, all that a representative can reasonably expected to do is to make sure that the claimant’s medical record is complete, the medical record and testimony properly worked up (preferably with the client actually coming into our office to sit with us and review the trial paperwork that we send them) and properly prepare the claimant for testimony. After that all that is left to be done is for the claimant’s testimony and case has been properly presented and vocational experts or medical experts who testify at the hearing be effectively cross examined and hypotheticals properly proposed. That is what an attorney does through the trial level.
So, if you haven’t noticed, (I am sure that you may have already), the system is broken and it does not look like Congress is going to fix it any time soon. I hate to say this, but if you were thinking that the process was going to be fast and painless, you just have not been keeping up on the doings of Congress. Moreover, approval rates re dropping as Congress continues to look closely at the system to figure out what they are going to be doing with it in the future. Eventually, the Social Security System is becoming the political football of our time and as those who deny you benefits are more likely not to get into hot water than those who do, I expect that the “Culture of Denial” there will continue. So, batten down the hatches and hang in there. I Hope this helps with your perspective.
Sincerely, Mike Murburg, 9/3/15