How long is the duration of a disability appeal when involving a lawyer?

Involving a lawyer in a disability appeal does not change the duration of the appeal.

However, attorneys are much more familiar with the systems and processes involved.

Therefore, working with an attorney in a disability appeal may help you navigate through certain procedures with ease.

In addition, the experience and skills of a lawyer will come in handy, as they can present your case more persuasively.

Without the services of a lawyer, the duration of a disability appeal will certainly be longer and more hectic.

A lawyer will help you prepare your case, gather medical evidence, draft well-prepared paperwork, and hence make a strong case at your disability hearing

If you are denied Social Security disability benefits and are wondering if hiring an attorney is wise for your appeal, then the answer is yes.

In this article, we shall discuss the duration of a disability appeal when involving a lawyer.

In addition, the article will explain the procedures of the disability appeals process.

An attorney can significantly impact the outcome of your case by helping with evidence, coordinating with medical professionals, preparing you for the hearing, and representing you before the judge.

What is a disability appeal?

A disability appeal happens when one’s application for Social Security disability benefits gets declined by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The SSA has two distinct disability programs

Social Security Disability Insurance: Beneficiaries qualify for this program based on their earned work credits, which are contributed to the Social Security fund through taxes on personal income. A beneficiary must have a minimum of 20 work credits (5 years of work)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): Here, the beneficiaries qualify based on financial need. A beneficiary must have minimal income or resources.

Many applications will be denied by the SSA on the first application due to insufficient medical evidence to prove that one has a qualifying condition that is disabling and prevents them from doing meaningful work for at least 12 months.

How long is the duration of a disability appeal when involving a lawyer?
One of the requirements for a successful initial application is a disability that makes one unable to do a meaningful job. Image from

Other reasons why the initial application was rejected by the SSA include technical errors and a lack of enough work credits if alcohol and drug abuse contributed to the disability. Lack of enough documents, such as original copies of birth certificate or citizenship

A lawyer thus reduces the duration for a disability appeal or increases the chances of success in the initial application by correcting mistakes concerning work history, financial documentation, and verification of tax returns and the Adult Disability Report.

What is the work of a disability appeals lawyer?

A disability appeals attorney will help in the following ways. Through the following ways, the lawyer can reduce the duration of a disability appeals claim.

  • Filing disability appeals claim. This process includes an evaluation of the initial application to determine the reasons why it was denied by the SSA.
  • Monitoring disability appeals claim as it gets processed by the Social Security Administration.
  • Submitting any additional or updated information discovered in an ongoing appeals process.
  • Tracking down one’s medical records and other documents that may be necessary to give weight to a claim. These documents include the doctor’s opinion on how your condition may affect your day-to-day activities, or financial information and work history.
  • Giving quick responses to any denials to make the appeal process smooth.
  • File for every stage of the appeal and correct clerical or technical errors on an application.
  • Preparing one and any witnesses for the appeals hearing in front of the administrative law judge.

In general, a lawyer can help in reducing the duration of a disability appeals claim. The compelling reason is that attorneys are familiar with Social Security disability policy and procedures.

The duration of a disability appeal with a lawyer

The duration varies based on factors like the appeal level, case backlog, and complexity of your claim.

Here are approximate time frames for each appeal stage with legal representation:

Reconsideration Stage

This is the initial appeal stage known as reconsideration.

You have 60 days from the denial letter to request reconsideration from the Social Security Administration (SSA) with a different examiner.

During this phase, you can submit new medical evidence to support your claim.

An attorney can assist in obtaining and presenting relevant records, as well as giving a concise explanation of how you meet the disability criteria.

Reconsideration processing typically takes around three to five months, subject to local laws.

Where reconsideration is unsuccessful one can ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

If the ALJ does not decide in one’s favor, a request for review by the Appeals Council exists.

A further appeal exists where one can file a civil action in the United States District Court in the case that the Appeals Council does not rule in one’s favor and send the review back to an ALJ.

How long is the duration of a disability appeal when involving a lawyer?
The Disability Appeals Process. Image from Sackett and Associates

Hearing Stage

Here, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) who independently reviews your claim.

You have 60 days from the reconsideration denial to request a hearing, allowing you to present additional evidence and witnesses.

A lawyer can help by reviewing your case, developing a legal strategy, questioning witnesses, cross-examining SSA experts, and presenting arguments.

The average processing time for a hearing is approximately 12 to 18 months, depending on case volume and location.

Appeals Council Stage

The third stage is the Appeals Council.

Here, you can submit a petition to the SSA’s Appeals Council for a comprehensive review of your case, assessing any legal or evidential errors made by the ALJ.

You have 60 days from the hearing decision letter to request an Appeals Council review, including new evidence or legal arguments.

An attorney can assist in outlining shortcomings in the ALJ’s ruling and justifying your entitlement to benefits.

An Appeals Council review usually takes around 18 to 24 months, but it may vary based on case complexity and workload.

Federal Court Action

Finally, the last level of appeal involves filing a lawsuit against the SSA in a federal district court, seeking review by a federal judge.

You have 60 days from the Appeals Council’s denial to initiate a federal court action, presenting new legal arguments or constitutional challenges.

At this stage, you can work with a lawyer to prepare a complaint, file motions, engage in discovery, draft briefs, and present oral arguments.

The typical processing time for a federal court action is about 12 to 24 months, subject to court workload and claim nature.

Frequently Asked Question About Disability Appeal

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Social Security Disability Appeal?

No, a lawyer is not necessary for the appeal, one can file and go through the process alone.


As shown, the duration of a disability appeal can range from three months to four years or possibly longer, depending on the appeal level, case backlog, and claim complexity.

However, having legal representation increases your chances of success at each stage, reduces unnecessary delays and errors, and provides guidance on further appeals or settlement considerations.

If you’re considering hiring an attorney for your disability appeal, it’s advisable to contact one promptly after receiving the denial letter.

Engaging legal counsel early allows you to begin the appeal process sooner and get closer to receiving your entitled benefits.