Is There a Waiting Period for Disability Benefits in Colorado?

Couple waiting for approval of disability claims.

If you suffer from a disability, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) benefits. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration does not always provide these benefits right away. Instead, applicants can expect to go through two waiting periods:

  • The time period between application and approval (which can be lengthy if an applicant must appeal the denial of a claim)
  • The period from the time of approval to receipt of benefits, which is five months for SSDI benefits (no waiting period exists for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits).

These waiting periods can present challenges for individuals that cannot work and have mounting medical bills. However, a Colorado Social Security disability benefits lawyer at The Sawaya Law Firm can try to expedite the process for you, keep you updated and, ultimately, work hard to pursue the benefits that you deserve.

How Long Does It Take to Apply for Benefits?

To apply for SSDI benefits, you must apply at your local Social Security office. After you fill out an application, the Social Security office will send the application to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. DDS will review your application and the medical information contained within it. A DDS claims examiner may contact you about your medical condition and any medical professionals listed in your application. DDS may also ask you for more medical evidence and even request that you submit to a medical examination.

DDS cannot discuss your medical condition with anyone but you and your SSDI benefits lawyer. While DDS can contact medical professionals, this is only done to verify that they are treating you. DDS also cannot inform you of your eligibility status or advise on the amount of benefits you may receive. Only the Social Security Administration (SSA) can provide this information.

Therapist helping the disabled patient.DDS reviews your claim so it can make a recommendation to the SSA. When considering whether to approve or deny your claim, the SSA will take the DDS recommendation into consideration along with all other information that you submitted in your application. Only the SSA will make a decision on your application.

The time it takes to hear back from the SSA about a decision on your application is typically 90 to 120 days. Even if your claim is approved, you will face a five-month waiting period before you can start to receive benefits.

Can You Speed Up the Waiting Period?

In some circumstances, the SSA will expedite the claims process and waive the five-month waiting period. These SSA will do this when:

  • You have a dire need – If you are unable to purchase food or medicine or pay for shelter, the SSA considers it to be a critical case and will expedite the claims review process.
  • You face a threat to your safety – When an applicant is under the threat of suicide or homicide, the SSA will likely cut the waiting period.
  • You suffer from a terminal illness – The SSA recognizes that when applicants suffer from a terminal illness, they need benefits right away.
  • You sustained your disability during military service – The SSA will expedite claims pertaining to any disabilities sustained while on activity duty after October 1, 2001.
  • You qualify for a compassionate allowance – Certain conditions such as pancreatic cancer and small lung cancer are eligible for a compassionate allowance, which will speed up the process.

An SSDI lawyer at The Sawaya Law Firm can advise you on your claim and determine if you are eligible for an expedited decision on your claim due to any of the above circumstances. If so, you can count on your lawyer to take all necessary steps to speed up the process for you.

What Is the Five-Month Waiting Period for SSD Benefits?

If the SSA approves your application for SSDI benefits, you will have to wait five months before the SSA starts providing those benefits to you in the form of a monthly check. Some exceptions apply to this waiting period. For instance, you will have no waiting period if you received SSDI benefits in the past, or if you returned to work and stopped receiving benefits but became disabled again.

The five-month waiting period begins on your established onset date. In other words, the date when the SSA believes that your disability began. The onset date cannot be more than 17 months from the time you applied for SSDI benefits.

What Happens If the SSA Denies Your Benefits Claim?

The majority of SSDI claims are denied after the initial application. However, an appeals process exists to allow individuals that suffer from a disability to pursue the benefits they need and deserve.

Social security benefits application form for registration.The first step in the appeals process is to submit a request for reconsideration. During this stage, DDS will review your application to determine if there was an error made in the initial consideration of it. You must file a request for reconsideration within 60 days of receiving the notice of denial of your initial application.

If your request for reconsideration results in your application still being denied, you can then request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). During this stage you will present your arguments to the judge and explain why you need SSDI benefits. Medical and vocational experts may also be called in to provide testimony about your disability and how it impacts your daily life. This hearing is typically scheduled several months –sometimes even more than a year – after a person requests a hearing.

Many applications are approved during the hearing stage. However, if your application is not approved, you can take your case to the SSA Appeals Council. The Appeals Council does not consider new evidence. Instead, it reviews a case to determine if the ALJ made an error. If the Council finds error, it will either send the case back to the judge for review or make a decision on your case.

If the Appeals Council determines that no error occurred, you should not receive benefits, you can then file an appeal in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

Get Help from a Colorado Disability Benefits Lawyer

If you suffer from a disability and need to file a claim for SSDI benefits, or you have already been denied benefits, it will be important for you to speak with an experienced Colorado disability benefits lawyer. At The Sawaya Law Firm, we understand the SSDI system. We can help you to navigate the appeals process and aggressively pursue the benefits you need. Contact us today and learn more about how we can help you.


Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.