Applying for Social Security Disability can be a long and complicated process, but don’t feel overwhelmed! When you work with The Advocator Group, our team of experienced Client Advocates is here to help you every step of the way.

Levels within the Social Security Disability (SSDI) Application Process Include:

Initial Level
Reconsideration Level
Hearing Level
Appeals Council Review
Receiving Your Benefits

Initial Level

4-6 months | Most people we represent receive their award during this phase.

Here is where the expertise of our team of Client Advocates really shines! An early award can save months or years of additional stress. Here is how we help to build you the strongest possible case:

  1. Gather Information: Our experienced Client Advocates will work with you to gather all the information necessary to complete the required forms and build a strong case.

  2. File Initial Application: Your team of Client Advocates will help you prepare and file your initial application for benefits. After it is filed, your claim will be reviewed by your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to ensure you meet initial eligibility requirements.

  3. Initial Application Review: If your claim meets the initial requirements (sufficient work credits, citizenship requirements, etc.), a medical determination will be made by your local Disability Determination Services (DDS) agency. In order to verify your eligibility, the DDS office may provide additional questionnaires or request that you attend a Consultative Exam (performed by a doctor chosen and paid for by the SSA). Your Client Advocates will keep you updated on progress, as we continue to closely monitor your application.

    Although we are often able to get early awards for our clients, if your initial claim is denied, your team of Client Advocates will immediately begin the appeals process for you and make sure all required deadlines are met.

    Depending on the state that you live in, you may move on to the Request for Reconsideration or Request for Hearing phase.

Reconsideration Level

4-6 months | Not all states have this step. See the list below.

In most states, the first level of appeal in the SSDI application process is the Request for Reconsideration.

Depending on which state you live in, if your initial SSDI claim is denied, we have 60 days from the date of the denial notice to file a Request for Reconsideration with the SSA. This will send your claim back through a technical review by your local SSA office and a medical review by your local DDS agency.

Our team of Client Advocates will provide the DDS reviewers with your updated medical records and any changes to your health condition, to help with this medical review. Your Client Advocates will also help you satisfy requests for additional information and/or Consultative Exam (CE) requirements.

The following states skip the Reconsideration level and go directly to a Request for Hearing: Alabama, Alaska, California (some locations), Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania

Hearing Level

12-18 months | Claims that reach this level are more likely to be awarded.

In most instances, the second level of appeal in the SSDI process is the Request for Hearing.

If your Request for Reconsideration is denied, we have 60 days from the date of the denial notice to file a Request for Hearing. This level involves additional technical processing by your local SSA office and a medical determination by your local Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR).

When your claim is reviewed at your local ODAR, you will be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and a hearing date will be assigned.

The average processing time at this level is 12 to 18 months. During this time, your team of Client Advocates will prepare you for your hearing and will check-in with you regularly, to keep you updated on the status of your claim.

If your case needs to be presented in front of an ALJ at the hearing level, we will provide you with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney who will offer compelling evidence as to how your disabling medical condition impacts your ability to work.

After your hearing is complete, it will take additional time for the ODAR to process and mail your decision to you.

Appeals Council Review

12-18 months | The Appeals Council reviews your claim to determine the next step.

In most instances, the third level of appeal in the SSDI application process is the Request for Appeals Council Review. This Appeals Council is responsible for determining whether your claim was properly adjudicated by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who reviewed your case.

The outcomes of the Appeals Council are usually one of the following:

  • Reverse the decision of the ALJ
  • Confirm the decision of the ALJ
  • Remand your case back to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) for further review

If your case advances to this stage in the application process, your team of Client Advocates will advise you on next steps and discuss any assistance we may be able to provide.

Receiving Your Benefits

We’ll still be here to answer any questions and help you any way we can.

When you are awarded Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, there are typically two parts to this award:

  1. Ongoing SSDI monthly payments, which you will receive as long as you continue to qualify for benefits
  2. A retroactive lump sum payment to cover the time period between your eligibility for benefits and your approval date (“past-due benefits”)

Your team of experienced Client Advocates at The Advocator Group will help you receive payment, understand the details of your award, discuss what to do next and ensure that you are prepared for your Medicare entitlement.

Remember, our team moves quickly and directly.

We take pride in helping our clients obtain early awards, which means that you likely won’t need to go through every step in the application process in order to receive your benefits.

Want help with your SSDI application denial?

Even if you started the application process on your own or with a different advocate, we can help.