Over 7 million California residents live with disabilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Benefits programs can be a critical lifeline for people with disabilities and their families.
If you or a loved one has a disability, it is important to know what to expect when navigating the benefits application process in California.
Completing the application
To seek disability benefits in California, start by completing your application. This involves collecting necessary documentation, including your work history, hospital records and other relevant information. Taking a comprehensive approach from the outset is beneficial, as it can help speed up the process.
Once you submit your disability benefits application, the Social Security Administration begins the review process. During this stage, they assess your condition and your ability to work. It typically takes four to eight months for the SSA to perform this initial evaluation.
Responding to denials
Unfortunately, the SSA denies a significant portion of disability applications at this stage. If this happens to you, do not give up. You have the option to request a reconsideration. This phase can take three to six months, during which the SSA reevaluates your claim.
Furthermore, you can request a hearing before a judge if you face a second denial during the reconsideration phase. This stage can be even more time-consuming, with an average wait time of a year or longer before your hearing.
Once your hearing is on the schedule, you can present your case before a judge. You can provide new evidence and testify about your disability and its impact on your ability to work. Solid preparation and representation during the hearing phase can increase your chance of approval. Following the hearing, the judge issues a decision regarding your disability claim.
In total, applying for disability benefits in California can take up to three years, though the process can be much quicker for some individuals. Each case is unique, and the timeline can vary based on the complexity of your claim.