The process to obtain Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can often be long and arduous. Unfortunately, from the date of the application, the initial determination from Social Security and the reconsideration stage usually takes several months. Add to that (when necessary) the time to get a hearing before the Office of Hearing Operations (OHO), the time to get a decision, and the time for any appeal, you can be looking at a process that can often take several months longer.
How Long Can You Expect to Wait?
Many clients seeking SSD benefits are initially shocked at the actual time they will likely have to wait before being able to their application processed (4 to 6 months) or to obtain a hearing. These numbers could have a dramatic effect on your livelihood. At ADL, we therefore believe it is vital that our clients have realistic expectations about the process and its length.
The following chart, based on data compiled from the Social Security Administration (SSA), can be used to estimate the amount of time an average applicant should expect to wait from the date of a hearing request to the date the hearing is held—and more importantly, the average time it takes to get a claim processed from application to final disposition of the hearing:
Atlanta Downtown Hearing Office
9.0 months average wait for hearing
361 days average processing time for a claim
Atlanta North Hearing Office
8.0 months average wait for hearing
268 days average processing time for a claim
What You Can Do While Awaiting SSD Benefits?
The average successful SSD benefits applicant will have to wait more than a year before receiving benefits. During the waiting period, it wouldn’t be uncommon if you face some financial problems and stress due to the fact that your medical condition is keeping you from earning the income you need to pay your bills. Although there is no easy solution to this unfortunate issue, the following suggestions may help you out:
1. Visit your local Georgia Department of Human Services office to seek assistance. Depending on your current financial situation, you may be able to receive temporary food assistance, cash assistance (for those with minor children), medical assistance, access to child care resources and other emergency support. At the very least, the Department of Human Services should be able to guide you in the right direction.
2. Apply for workers’ compensation benefits. If your disability arose from a workplace injury, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits through your employer’s insurance coverage. Most employees are eligible to pursue medical benefits, lost wages and vocational rehabilitation by filing a claim with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
3. Refinance. Depending on your financial situation, you may want to consider refinancing your home or consolidating unsecured debts such as credit cards, car loans and other personal loans.
Although it is often tempting, ADL generally advises against drawing against the equity in your home or obtaining a new personal loan – particularly one from a payday lender. Doing so could cause you to take a step towards financial disaster, including possibly losing your home.
The Benefits of Working with an Attorney
Although neither ADL nor any other attorney has a magic wand that can speed up the SSD process, we do make every effort to facility an efficient and prompt resolution of your claim. We will stay on top of application and speak with your case worker to quickly resolve any issues. And we work to schedule and conduct hearings as quickly as possible. If you believe you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, it is important that you contact a skilled SSD benefits lawyer. ADL will not only be able to help you navigate through the application and appeals process, but we can also help steer you in the right direction should you need financial aid while your case is pending.