The Social Security Administration (SSA) appeals process can take a considerable amount of time, especially in cases that go beyond a hearing to the SSA Appeals Council. The exact amount of time depends on several factors, but the appeal can be hastened through the system by following a few simple guidelines.
Time frame for appeal hearings
After receiving a notice from the SSA regarding the status of your benefits, you have 60 days to file an appeal. You must begin your appeal at the first level, which is the reconsideration review. This step of the process may take from 30 to 90 days, depending on the caseload at your local SSA office. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only about 20 percent of appeals cases are resolved at this level.
After the reconsideration review, the next step in your appeal is to request a hearing. After you submit your request, the average time for processing is 360 days. In the fiscal year 2011, the SSA processed 553,642 appeals in 270 days or less, and 217,676 appeals took longer than 270 days. After your hearing, it will take an additional 30 days to receive a decision.
Time frame for Appeals Council review
If you do not agree with the decision made after your hearing, you may take your appeal to the SSA Appeals Council. As of 2010, the average time to process a review request with the Appeals Council was 11 months, 15 days. Over two-thirds of cases are processed in less than one year.
How to shorten the process
The SSA appeals process can be shortened by adhering to the following guidelines:
- If you wish to hire a Social Security attorney, do so as early as possible. An attorney can streamline the process and ensure all paperwork is submitted in a timely manner.
- Do not cancel or reschedule your hearing date.
- Submit any new evidence before the date of the hearing.
- Notify the SSA of any change in address immediately.