Q: When Do I Apply?
A: You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. The law requires that you be disabled for 12 consecutive months to be eligible, but if your medical provider supports your application, it is better to start now. Claims can always be withdrawn, but it is better to start the process early. Get legal help at the outset.
It can take a long time to process an initial application for disability benefits, three to five months. Over 72% of initial applications are denied nationally, which underscores the benefit of having experienced legal help before you even begin the process.
If you apply for Social Security, disability benefits will not begin until the sixth full month of disability, and only after a lengthy application process. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), SSI disability benefits are paid for the first full month after the date you filed your claim, or, if later, the date you become eligible for SSI. There is a 24-month wait for Medicare eligibility, it begins in the 25th month after your onset date as determined by Social Security. Medicaid or MediCal begins immediately for SSI recipients.
The final award rate for disabled-worker applicants has varied over time, averaging nearly 45 percent for claims filed from 2000 through 2009. The percentage of applicants awarded benefits at the initial claims level averaged just 28 percent over the same period and ranged from a high of 37 percent to a low of 26 percent. The percentage of applicants awarded at the reconsideration and hearing levels are averaging 3 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Denied overall disability claims at all stages have averaged nearly 53 percent.