A Timetable For Following-Up
The time it takes to process an application for SSDI varies at the extremes from a minimum of a little over a month to a year or more. Variables include which office is processing your claim, how long it takes you to provide all the requested documentation, and how fast your doctors and other people reply to requests for information.
If your claim involves a health condition that could be considered to be a so-called terminal condition or a possible disability extension of COBRA, and you have told that to the interviewer, your claim will be "fast-tracked" and processed more quickly.
A lot of the determination of how long a claim takes is in your control. Personally getting and delivering the medical records, promptly answering all requests and completing all questionnaires, and pushing providers who are slow in replying to requests will help keep the claim on track.
Generally, however, you can use the following timeline as a guide and a list of things you should do to keep your claim on track:
Before You Apply: Do as much of the work suggested to be done before the Social Security Interview as you can. However, do not let this delay starting the process. Do the best you can.
First week: (counting from the date of the interview)
- If you didn't have all the information requested by the Social Security representative, including the Medical Report and medical records as well as statements or affidavits from friends, family and co-workers, get them to your Social Security representative as quickly as possible.
- When asking your doctor or other health care provider for statements or copies of files, it may speed the process if you agree to pick them up personally. If not, there may be pressure for them to act more quickly if you ask for the statements and copies of files to be sent to you [so you can deliver them to Social Security or the state agency which determines whether your medical condition qualifies for SSDI. The agencies are generally known as Division of Determination Services (DDS)]
- Keep the copy of your answers to the forms as well as the other documents you submit near the telephone in case you receive a phone call from Social Security or DDS.
- If you mailed anything to the Claims Representative after the Interview, call to make sure everything you mailed to the Claims Representative after the interview was received. Also find out when your claim is being sent to DDS, the state agency that processes medical claims.
- Send in the rest of the information or forms you haven't delivered yet.
Third week: Your file should be sent from the Social Security Claims Representative to the Disability Analyst at DDS. From now on, any additional documentation you mail or hand deliver, should be directly to DDS, unless you are told to send the documentation somewhere else.
- Call the Social Security Claims Representative to get the name and phone number of the Disability Evaluation Analyst evaluating the medical portion of your claim. If the Rep doesn't have this information, ask for the phone number of the Medical Relations Office in the DDS office. If you have a claim filed, he or she can tell you the name and phone number of the person to whom your file is assigned.
- If you don't want to bother the Social Security representative with this call, call 1.800.772.1213 and ask whether your case was sent to the DDS office. The operator can tell you what office your file was sent to and when it was received. Ask for the phone number of the Medical Relations Officer. Then proceed as above.
- Call the Disability Evaluation Analyst, introduce yourself, make a friend (see How to Make a Friend At Social Security) and ask if s/he is missing any records or information. Keep in mind that this is the person who is going to make the initial determination about whether or not to award you SSDI. Also ask if there is going to be a Consultative Exam, and, if so, can your treating physician perform it. See Consultative Exam..
Fourth week: The analyst is probably reviewing the complete file.
- Continue to stay in touch andsend any new medical charts from recent medical visits.
- Find out what documentation has been received and from where. Also find out if the Analyst is waiting for documentation from a doctor or other health care provider. If so, find out what specifically is missing, when it was requested and the person to whom the request was made. For example, it may be that the Analyst received a report from a doctor, but the report didn't talk about how your condition affects your ability to perform daily or work activities. You need to know that in order to follow up on that specific information.
- If lab or clinical tests are missing, ask your doctor whether there is another source to get a copy of the tests other than the source the Analyst is asking.
- Follow up with which person or group is being slow in responding to the requests -- even going to the doctor or health care provider's office if necessary.
- Ask the DDS Analyst whether there is enough information in the file to make you eligible to receive SSDI. If not, what is the Analyst missing that would help make the determination, so you can follow up. This follow-up may mean speaking with your doctor to write an addition to the Medical Report covering whatever subjects the Analyst needs covered. If you've been keeping a symptoms diary, it could come in handy here.
Second MONTH: Review of file continues.
- You can help by staying in touch with your friend the Analyst, and obtaining any additional information s/he may need.
Third month: If you are going to be asked to submit to a consultative exam, it will probably happen around this time.
- You can help by requesting that your own physician or psychiatrist be permitted to conduct the exam. See Consultative Exam.
By the end of the Third month: A decision should be made as long as all the documentation and information has been received.
- You can help by contacting the Disability Analyst and asking what is delaying the decision. If all the information is in, there appears to be no reason for the delay, and the Analyst at the state agency and/or the Claims Representative at Social Security don't seem to have a good explanation for the delay, consider talking to a supervisor.
If you feel there is an unreasonable delay: Call your Congressperson's office and ask for an inquiry into the reason for the delay. Congress people have staff assigned to handle just such questions. Don't expect that the call from the Congressperson will affect whether or not you receive an award. However, they are useful to get a stalled review back on track.