I recently spoke with a prospective client, who wanted to initiate a claim for Social Security disability benefits. Up until a couple of months ago she was working full time and making good money. However, it was very difficult for her, because of her physical conditions. Finally, her employer started cutting back her hours, because she couldn’t do all of the parts of her job any more, which required significant lifting. Her job was ultimately terminated. Since then, she has tried to find other jobs, but can’t find anything that she is capable of doing, so she called us to see about applying for disability benefits from Social Security.
Unfortunately, she thought this was going to be a quick answer to her problems, until I had to explain to her the timeline she is looking at to obtain benefits if she is ultimately found to be qualified. Here is what I told her:
It is a very long process to get on Social Security disability benefits. The first step is to initiate an application. It takes approximately six months to get an initial decision from Social Security, and that is almost always a denial. Then it is necessary to request a Reconsideration, after which it is necessary to wait another 4-6 months to get a new decision, which is also usually a denial. A couple of years ago, we took on a new client after he had received his second denial. He was paralysed from the neck down and couldn’t even talk, and yet he had been denied twice.
After the second denial, we request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Unfortunately, because everyone has to go see a Judge, they are really backed up. Here in Utah it is currently taking 16-18 months to get a hearing from the time it is requested. In Idaho and other surrounding states, the wait is generally between 12-14 months. Therefore, the timeline from an initial application to the hearing, where the real decisions are generally made, is between two and two and a half years. Unfortunately, this was not going to be a short-term fix for my prospective client. However, as I explained to her, her conditions were not going away, so she might as well get the process started.
Because the process is so long and complicated, many people opt to hire an attorney early on to help with their claim. That way, we can be sure that the appeals are done in a timely manner and that the case does not “fall through a crack” at Social Security, which frequently happens. The cost to the client is the same, whether we come on to the case early or late. Our rates are set by Social Security, so we get 25% of the back pay, or $6,000, whichever is less, only if we win the case. Otherwise, there is no charge to the client.
Give us a call. We will be happy to discuss your case with you, and see if we can help.