Social Security process can be a waiting game

By: Bellonora McCallum - Legal Corner

Last week in the Legal Corner, we began to discuss a few Social Security benefit programs available to the public and the criteria to receive those benefits. This week, we will focus on the application process and the appeal process for Social Security benefits.

The first step to potentially receiving Social Security benefits is the application process. In order for an individual to be considered for the Social Security benefits program, he or she must file the appropriate application. The Social Security Administration currently has an online application for Social Security disability, however, applicants are unable to apply for Supplemental Security Income at this time.

The following steps have to be followed when applying online to enable the applicant to move to the next step in the process. A disability application is completed when the applicant has reviewed the disability checklist on the SSA website, completed the Social Security disability application, completed the disability report form and completed and signed the SSA medical release form. If any portion of the application is not completed or one of the aforementioned items is incomplete or missing, the SSA will contact the applicant to obtain this information.

If an applicant does not have access to the Internet or chooses not to apply online, they have the option to file a Social Security disability claim or application by phone or at a local Social Security office. When an applicant files a claim or application either in person or over the phone, a claims representative will assist the applicant with completing a disability application for both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. The claims representative will ask the applicant questions concerning his or her medical condition, work history and medical treatment history.

Once the SSA has received a completed application, the individual’s claim is then sent to a disability examiner with a state disability determination services agency for a medical disability determination or decision. After the disability examiner has been assigned to a disability application, he or she will request the applicant’s medical records.

In most cases, it may take the examiner an extensive amount of time to obtain all of the applicant’s medical records for review and determination. In addition to the medical records, the examiner may request additional information from the applicant or require the applicant to attend an examination appointment or consultative examination.

Unfortunately, the time it may take for an applicant to go through the entire Social Security disability application process may vary from case to case. In general, the disability examiner could make the initial decision within 30-90 days. However, if the disability claim is denied, the applicant has a right to appeal the decision by filing a reconsideration appeal.

Once an appeal is filed, it could take up to 60 days in order to receive a decision on the appeal. If the initial appeal is denied, the applicant does have the opportunity to file another appeal, but the wait time for a hearing is much longer. In most cases, applicants should be prepared to wait at least a year for decisions on their disability claims.

Please remember that this information is only meant to inform our readers. This article does not include the entire detailed Social Security disability application process. Potential applicants should contact their local Social Security Administration office and schedule an appointment.

If you have any additional questions about the application process or the requirements for obtaining Social Security disability, please contact a local attorney. As always: Be informed. Be prepared.

Bellonora McCallum is an attorney at the McCallum Law Firm, PLLC, in Rockingham. Reach her at 910-730-4064 or visit

Bellonora McCallum

Legal Corner