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How Long is the Social Security Disability Appeal Process?

The Social Security Disability appeal process can be frustrating and confusing. After you file your application, how long the appeal process will take? The short answer is, it can take a long time. The wait between filing your application to the date of your hearing, can take up to two years. If it takes that long, then you will be eligible for past due disability benefits.

It is also a long wait for your day in court. Your Salt Lake City Social Security Disability Lawyer has limited ability to speed up the process. But at Cannon Disability Law, we do everything we can to make sure there are no case delays.

We ask for your help in obtaining medical records during the process. We do this because you know where to obtain your medical records, but also because it costs you less if you obtain them. The more information we can present to the SSA, the better chance we have of winning the case at an earlier stage.


Below you will find an overview of the SSA disability process. This includes an estimated waiting time at each stage of your case. Cannon Disability Law typically wins cases at the hearing stage, because this is when we argue your case before a judge. Throughout the wait for a court date, we ask you to maintain a good relationship with your doctors.

In order to do that, you have to visit your doctor regularly. We recommend a visit every month. Good relationships with your doctors helps us collect your medical records. We need your medical records in order to build a winning disability case.

The best thing you can do to help yourself during this process is to bring us all of your medical records as soon as you become our client. Medical records are the evidence you need to win your disability case. If you have questions about medical records, please read The Importance of Medical Records In Your Disability Case.

When we have your records, we understand your medical issues and how they are preventing you from working. When the judge understands your impairments, you have a better chance of winning your case. If you have questions about how to collect medical records or how to find a physician who can help you with your physical or mental health, call or contact us. Contact us for free now.

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FILING YOUR APPLICATION – Beginning the Social Security Disability Appeals Process

1-4 weeks
We will help you file your application with the SSA. The local SSA office will evaluate your claim to see if you meet the technical requirements for disability. We will file your claim for you and we will do it online at Social Security’s website. However, we need your help to provide us with the names of your doctors, your medications, and a description of your disability.

In addition, we will need your help to provide your work history to the SSA. If you file an application for SSI, you will need to sign the application before it is mailed in. Or, after it is filed online, the SSA may send a copy of the application to you for your signature.

SSD Appeal Process

The Initial Stage

Approximate processing time:
 3-6 months
If your case passes technical review, the local SSA office will transfer the case to the state Disability Determination Services (DDS) for medical review. DDS reviews the case using their doctors. A claims examiner will make the determination of whether or not you are disabled.

Usually, the claims examiner relies upon the medical opinion of their doctor. Updated medical records are crucial at this point. It is important for the DDS doctor and the claims examiner to know about your disability. In addition, they need to know your doctor’s medical opinion. If we can submit information from your doctor at this stage, it will help you win the case.

Social Security Disability Appeal Process Initial Stage

Reconsideration Stage

Approximate processing time:
​3-6 months
If your claim is denied at the Initial stage, we will file a Reconsideration appeal. Then, your case is sent back to DDS for another medical review. Again, submitting current records will help. If your case is not granted at this stage, we will file a Request for Hearing. Once a Request for Hearing is filed, it can take up to a year for the hearing to be scheduled. During this time you can do many things to help prepare your case. For example, you can go to the doctor, collect medical records, and submit those records to our office.

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Hearing Stage – The Last Stage of the Social Security Disability Appeal Process

The SSA will schedule your hearing at the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) that is closest to you. If you need to travel more than 75 miles to get to your hearing, the SSA will reimburse you for mileage. However, you will need to request a form for reimbursement at the hearing office.

Your hearing will be held before an Administrative Law Judge. You will be asked questions. We prepare you for the questions that the Judge will ask. Don’t worry. You will not be alone when you go into the courtroom. You will have your representative with you.

Additionally, your representative will often be the person asking you questions. If you want to know more about the hearing, please read our blog. For example, What Questions Will the Judge Ask At My Disability Hearing, would be a good place to start. You can access other articles about your upcoming hearing at Questions About Your Disability Hearing.


If you don’t win your hearing with the administrative law judge, you still have options. First, most of the time you can file a new application. There are some limits to filing a new application, so don’t do it until you consult with an attorney. Learn more about why the SSA may be denying your case here.

Second, you can appeal the ALJ’s decision to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council does not often grant cases or overturn a judge’s decision. However, it is possible to obtain a remand of your case. Read here more information about your chances at the Appeals Council.

Third, if the Appeals Council denies review of your case, then you can appeal your case to the Federal Court. You can learn more about Federal Court review here.

Finally, what do you do if the claimant dies while waiting for benefits? Unfortunately, this does happen. If you are a family member of the claimant, you can continue to pursue SSD benefits. You may want to do this if the claimant has children or you are the claimant’s spouse. Benefits are payable to surviving members of the family. However, there are specific things you need to do. Learn more about how to pursue disability benefits if the claimant dies.


If you lose your case at the hearing level, then you will receive an Unfavorable Decision from the disability judge. In the decision, there is information about how to appeal the judge’s decision to the Appeals Council. If you want to appeal the decision, then you must do so in 60 days. You should not miss this deadline. You must write to the Appeals Council and explain to them why you believe the judge’s decision is wrong.

Typically, an attorney prepares a written appeal for you. However, there is no rule stating that you must have an attorney to appeal. You can do it on your own, but be aware that the Appeals Council is looking for the judge’s mistakes.

The Appeals Council is not going to review your case like the judge did. Instead, they are reviewing the case to see if the judge’s decision is supported by the record. You can learn more on our website about appeal review at the Appeals Council.


The Social Security Disability appeal process does go on after the hearing. If you lose your case at the Appeals Council, then you can appeal your case to Federal Court. You will know that you have lost your case at the Appeals Council level because you will receive a decision from them that denies review. If the Appeals Council denies review or your case, then that means they agree with the ALJ’s decision at the hearing.

You have sixty days to file a Complaint in Federal Court after receiving the Appeals Council decision. This is a deadline that you cannot miss. It is best to hire a lawyer to file your Social Security Disability appeal in Federal Court. Make sure that you hire a Social Security Disability lawyer near you who has experience in Federal Court cases.

There is a filing fee due in order to file a Complain in Federal Court. It is likely that you will need to pay that filing fee, even if you have an attorney. Make sure you check with the Federal Court clerk or look online at the Federal Court website to learn how much the filing fee costs.

Not every representative can take your case to Federal Court, because many representatives are not attorneys. Likewise, very few attorneys have experience litigating disability cases in Federal Court. If you need to appeal to Federal Court, then ask your attorney how many Federal Court cases they have won. Make sure you hire an attorney who has the necessary litigation experience. You can learn more on our website about appealing your case to Federal Court.


If your Social Security disability case goes through a hearing or beyond that to a further appeal, you may be eligible for back benefits. Past due disability benefits accrue from the date of your application to the time you win benefits. It is important to file a disability application as soon as you know you are not going to return to work. It is also important to appeal in a timely fashion, so that you do not lose out on any past due benefits. Learn more about past due disability benefits here.

There is no doubt that you will need the help of attorney during these appeal stages. Hopefully, your case can be won during the appeals process or at your hearing. The reason you want to win your case at these lower levels is that litigation at the Appeals Council and Federal Court take a long time.

We represent our clients every day in court. We also appeal cases after the hearing, to the Appeals Council and Federal Court. Because we have court and appeal experience, you will have a better chance of winning your case.  Going through the appeals process can be frustrating. We know the appeal process takes too long, but we are with you every step of the way. Contact us today to start your disability claim. If you have been denied, do not forget to file an appeal before the 60 day deadline expires.

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