How Long is the Disability Application Process?

Submitted by Deanna on

The Social Security disability process can vary in length. The disability claim process can be long for some than others. Although the disability determination process can take a long time, many applicants don’t have any choice but to stick it out and fight for SSDI or SSI Benefits.

After all, these benefits can mean the difference between just scraping by each month and being able to cover the rent and pay other bills.

Applying for Social Security Benefits

SSI applications require a personal interview, while an SSDI application can be filed online or at the local office. Either way, it can take quite awhile to fill out the application, especially if you need hunt down the required information, which includes the details of your medical history, education, former employment, and financial situation.

The First Social Security Review

Once you submit your application for disability, your wait for a decision may take weeks or months. Some applicants qualify for expedited review under the compassionate allowances (CAL) program.

Others must undergo additional reviews, with the SSA examining more closely the affects of their medical condition on their everyday abilities.

On average, CAL applicants receive a decision within four weeks. The typical wait for other applicants ranges from three to six months, but there are things lengthen the wait, like insufficient medical evidence, for example.

Many applicants must fill out additional questionnaires. Some must attend consultative exams with contracted physician. Each of these steps can add weeks to the wait for a decision at the first review stage.

It may take a long time to initially hear if you qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

How Long is the Disability Application Process?

Reconsideration Reviews

If you’re denied benefits, you may request a second review or reconsideration of your claim. The average wait at this stage is four to six weeks. It can take longer though, especially if you live in an area where the disability determination services (DDS) office is backlogged.

Additionally, most applicants submit new evidence when they request a reconsideration. This increases your chances of approval but also stretches out your wait for a decision to somewhere around 10 to 12 weeks on average.

Appeal Hearings to Win Your Social Security Claim

Applicants that are denied at the first review and reconsideration stages must file an appeal if they wish to continue to try for benefits. Appeal hearings are held by administrative law judges and the dockets of most judges are quite backlogged as well.

Most people that must appeal wait 12 to 26 months before their appeal hearing takes place, but once the hearing is over, you’ll have a final decision on your claim.

Getting Help with Your Social Security Claim

The disability application and review processes vary significantly from one case to the next. Some applicants receive a decision in weeks, while others wait months or even years.

A Social Security disability attorney or advocate can help you understand the steps your application is likely to go through and help you apply for benefits.

A Social Security disability advocate or attorney can also potentially shorten your wait by strengthening your claim or making a stronger argument for your eligibility. When you work with an attorney, you your attorney may be able to tell if if there are any signs that you will be approved for disability. If you’re initially denied benefits, a disability lawyer can increase your chances of approval during an appeal and represent you at the appeal hearing as well.

Additional Resources

Blog comments

Tammy (not verified)

I checked today online with

I checked today online with social security it stated:
A medical decision has been made and we are working to process your benefits application. A social security representative may contact you directly if we need any additional documents or information. .... Is that a good sign of approval?

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 13:34 Permalink

In reply to by Tammy (not verified)

Hi Tammy,

Hi Tammy,

It means that they are still processing your application. It does not mean you were approved or denied. Best of luck!

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 16:21 Permalink
De’bre (not verified)

I applied for SSDI about 5

I applied for SSDI about 5 weeks ago and my application is still showing @ 2 of 3 processing. What does this mean?

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 15:04 Permalink

In reply to by De’bre (not verified)

Hi De'bre,

Hi De'bre,

It means the SSA is still determining if you are eligible for disability benefits.

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 15:21 Permalink

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