Workers throughout the Easton, Pennsylvania area might have health issues that affect their employment. Individuals with disabling medical conditions who are not yet old enough to retire have certain protections available.
They can sometimes apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. A successful claim will provide someone with monthly benefits that can help them cover basic cost-of-living expenses. Many applicants do not receive immediate approval and have to appeal to get benefits.
Appeals can take well over a year
There are different stages to the SSDI benefits appeals process. Someone who believes that the Social Security Administration (SSA) made the wrong determination can appeal shortly after receiving notice of their rejection.
The first stage of appeal is a reconsideration. Someone who works for the SSA and who did not play a role in the first review of someone’s application can go over the paperwork, including any corrected documents or additional medical records the applicant submitted. Some people will get benefits within as little as a few weeks through a reconsideration.
If that review is not successful, then they must move on to and appeal hearing in front of an administrative law judge. There it will typically be a longer wait for a hearing. Although Easton does have an SSA office, there won’t necessarily be hearings available through that facility. People may have to travel to another SSA location.
Those who have hearings arranged through the Philadelphia office will wait an average of 18.5 months for a hearing. If their case goes through the Philadelphia East office, the average wait time will be 25 months according to the records from August 2023. Some applicants may even have to cross the border into New Jersey for their hearing, as there is little predictability regarding which facility will handle their hearing.
During those months of waiting, the applicant and their lawyer can gather more medical documentation and possibly arrange to have witnesses testify at the hearing on someone’s behalf. Should the appeal require review by the Appeals Council or the federal courts, someone can expect the process to last quite a bit longer than appeals resolved at the hearing level.
There is no exact timeline. Applicants can generally expect to wait at least a year if not longer to complete the appeals process in Pennsylvania. If they are successful, they may receive backdated benefits in addition to future payments. Seeking legal guidance and better understanding what to expect can help people more effectively plan when applying for SSDI benefits.