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When an insured individual is no longer able to work due to a disability, it is important to file a Social Security Disability claim as soon as possible to avoid any potential loss of benefits. Insured status for benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act has an expiration date, or “date last insured” (DLI) for the onset of disability, though an individual may file a claim at any time. Social Security Administration can pay up to twelve months of retroactive pay from the date filed, so a claimant who files long after their onset of disability may risk losing back pay.

Once an application for disability has been filed, it can take months or even years before a claim is awarded under the Social Security Program, which is the largest social insurance program in the western hemisphere. As with any large entity, Social Security Administration can appear to move slowly. Action may seem delayed in part due to the many rules and procedures which are put in place to ensure fair and efficient administration of these benefits.

Approximately one-third of all claims are approved at the initial stage, which may take three or four months if all the evidence arrives in a timely manner. The initial application is decided by Disability Determination Services (DDS), a state agency funded by the Federal Government. If denied, most states have a reconsideration process before you can file an appeal with the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO). At the hearing level, approximately two-thirds of all claims are approved, though a claimant may wait one and a half years for a hearing with an administrative law judge. The growing number of applicants, combined with the limited number of administrative law judges and personnel at Social Security Administration, often leads to long waits for resolution of a claim. While the Administration is doing its best to hire more personnel and resolve more claims, the disability process is far from speedy.

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