I Applied, Was Denied, Now What?

I recently discussed how long it takes to get a decision once a SS claim is filed.  Short answer: about 3 months.  Statistically, one third of those applicants will be awarded (i.e, determined eligible for benefits) at the first stage, and two thirds that apply will be denied.  If denied, most people will (and should) appeal the denial and request a hearing with a judge.  So how long does it take to get a hearing?  The answer, unfortunately,  is typically about 16 months from the time of the appeal.  Why so long?  Essentially, the huge delay is because there are more cases  than there are judges to handle them.  In Missouri, there are approximately 40-50 judges to handle the cases, and there are thousands of people appealing their denials.  The individual case files can be large with several hundred pages of medical records.  So it takes time for the judge to review all the evidence, conduct the hearing, and then issue a written decision explaining their conclusions.  There is little that can be done to speed up the process on any individual case.  But the waiting can be very difficult emotionally and financially.