President Trump recently announced a federal hiring freeze that may delay Social Security disability claims for millions of applicants. A Social Security disability attorney can oversee the claims process for individuals with delayed claims and pending appeals.

How Long Do Disability Claims Take?

There is no set time frame for a Social Security disability claim to be approved or denied. An average disability claim filed with the Social Security Administration (SSA) can take as long as one year to decide. The length of time it takes for SSA to make a disability determination depends on a broad range of variables which can include filing an initial claim and filing for a hearing or appeal if the initial claim is denied. A decision on an initial disability claim typically takes 30 to 90 days. If the initial claim is denied, an applicant can file a request for a hearing or appeal. The appeal process typically takes about 60 days for a decision.

If the request for a hearing or appeal is denied by SSA, an applicant can file another appeal through a Social Security disability attorney requesting a disability hearing with an administrative law judge. For most people, this is a long, complex process that can take up to one year before a hearing with a law judge is scheduled.

How Will the Hiring Freeze Impact Claims?

With an existing backlog of Social Security disability claims, the federal hiring freeze is expected to only exacerbate the current backlog. Applicants who had initial disability claims denied are at special risk for longer delays based on appeals. Veterans who make up a large portion of disabled Americans are also at higher risks for longer delays. According to the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General, the average processing time for filing an appeal and receiving a decision in 2016 was 526 days.

In recent years, the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits has grown significantly. In 1990, less than 2.5 percent of working-age Americans received disability checks. In 2015, that percentage rose to more than 5 percent. In 2016, the Social Security Administration announced that it wanted to streamline and speed up the disability claims process and increase the number of judges to at least 1,900 by the end of 2018. To offset current disability delays, senior SSA officials hope that the Trump Administration will exempt key federal personnel, including judges and their clerks, from the hiring freeze.