How Long is the Disability Application Process?

Submitted by Deanna on Thu, 08/16/2018 - 16:23

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

shannon Westf… (not verified)

I filed a claim 06/23/2016.Had my appointment with D.D.S 09/20/2016. I called to check status of my claim and said that they had til 10/10/2016 to make a decision. Now that would make it 90 days. So then they said 2-3 more weeks for SSI doctor to make their decision. That's now past 120 days. As of 11/02/2016 was told 3-4 more weeks and they should know something?

Sun, 11/06/2016 - 20:50 Permalink
Sandy Smithers (not verified)

In reply to by shannon Westf… (not verified)

Shannon, I have been waiting for my decision since February of 2016. It is now November. It has taken this long thus far for only an on-set date. This is what I have paid taxes for over the past 32 years??!!

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 11:57 Permalink

In reply to by Sandy Smithers (not verified)

Hi Sandy,
I'm sorry to hear that! It's true, the process may take a long time due to the volume of applicants and where you apply.

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 16:10 Permalink

In reply to by Lisa (not verified)

Hi Lisa,
We don't receive any information about claimants here because we are not affiliated with the SSA nor are we affiliated with the federal government.

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 14:36 Permalink
Shannon Westfa… (not verified)

My food stamp case was closed July. Because I was unable to provide required documentation that I have a claim pending.. 5 month is a long time with no assistance. Am I qualified to get temporary assistance

Sun, 11/06/2016 - 21:08 Permalink
john humphrys (not verified)

In reply to by Shannon Westfa… (not verified)

yes temp ory assistance from welfare office s tate dis ability assistance. s. d. a.. possibly $200 month ... depart ment human services welfare they take the money given to you while waiting for ssdi claim .. your back pay lump sume they tack it back out . ya the s d a cash assist ance $ you pay it back...ask you welfare office worker for the forms for state disabiled assistance ..take that paper work in with you to your docter they fill out form about you being disabled . then that paper work goes to your depart ment of human services welfare office they process the paper work..

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 19:56 Permalink
Lori (not verified)

I had my hearing before the Judge 11/04/2016 and my Disability was awarded at that time. When should I see my first payment? And or find out how much it will be?

Tue, 11/15/2016 - 22:23 Permalink
Lori (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

My question was When? ?? I still have not received a letter after being granted Disability by the Judge 11/4/2016 Thank you

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 19:58 Permalink

In reply to by Lori (not verified)

Hi Lori,
You may find that letter in your mailbox sooner than you think! You can also contact the SSA to check your case's status, and if you had used one, you can also check with your lawyer as well.

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 10:29 Permalink
Betsey (not verified)

Who monitors the application process for disability to see if there is it timely completion? I have never applied for any thing else involved the government or any other service where there is not sometpye of required time lines. This is the only case where I have seen that time is not an issue as to completing the process for the Social Security Administration. To say oh your claim will be cleared when ever we basically want to get to it is unbelievable to me. Remember all of the applicants are severely ill, disable, required not to work for five months or more ( no income)and to for the SSA to be able to say we we do it when we want to it to these people is not humane. It is amazing how strict IRS is with its timelines and monitoring and how laid back, unconcerned the SSA is with sick people .I files with diagnosed Degenerative Arthritis on July 26,2016 and I am still waiting to hear from an initial claim. I worked from July 1979-July 2016, without any breaks in service. I am 59 years old. I was diagnosed in 2012. I have all the required doctors / health records. I had Colon Cancer surgery in July. My medical records and testing are on target. Should be an easy claim to settle! It has not been processed. My Social Security webpage says it's has been with DDS since 8-23-2016. Says it was put out for review on 10-21-2016 by DDS? I called on 12-9/2016 and was told it is with the DDS Admin. Office in Tallahhasse Fl.????

Sun, 12/11/2016 - 14:07 Permalink

In reply to by Betsey (not verified)

Hi Betsey,
The SSA does do quality checks on its applications for processing, however the time delay may just be a function of having many people seeking disability benefits rather than anything else.

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 10:54 Permalink
Nan (not verified)

I checked the status of my claim today and on 12/27/16 it states a medical decision has been made and they are working to process my benifits application. What does that exactly mean?

Wed, 12/28/2016 - 12:24 Permalink

In reply to by Nan (not verified)

Hi Nan,
I really could not say as they are just describing the stage at which they are in the application. As we are not affiliated with the SSA or the federal government, we do not have information about the status of your application.

Thu, 12/29/2016 - 14:27 Permalink
ray (not verified)

In reply to by Nan (not verified)

I filed my claim in 4/1/13 and have been thur all the hell with these people I have worked since 75 have a lot of problems as of now iam waiting on a court fed court date before a judge in my town instead of on a video screen what a joke abd now they me I could have filed a new app 6 months ago

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 13:35 Permalink

In reply to by ray (not verified)

Hi Ray,
Hang in there! If you had filed a new claim, you would have an entirely different Established Onset date, which would affect any back payments that you would be entitled to.

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 12:38 Permalink
Deb Keener (not verified)

I have a good friend who applied for disability 6 years ago. This seems to me a very long time. She has done everything the have asked her and gone through the appeals one after another. She has had two different lawyers and each time she gets turned down the seem to tell her we have to start over with the next higher appeal. What are all of the different appeals that she may have to go through? I would appreciate your honest thoughts about how long she should go on. Do you know of anyone going through appeals for this amount of time and getting their disability?

Sun, 01/01/2017 - 20:26 Permalink
Tammy F (not verified)

I had an attorney help me,
In Aug.2013 is the date my attorneys filed my paperwork.
Its been a long haul, Finally Jan. 2017 almost 4 years later the Federal judge ruled "in favor"
Now that's been a hell of a long time & IM glad its past that hurdle

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 02:48 Permalink
Pam (not verified)

In reply to by Tammy F (not verified)

Where you awarded back pay by the federal judge for all the time? I’m in the same boat. I have been denied time after time. My lawyers have never seen someone with a rare disease like me (CIDP) autoimmune disease that effects nerves, get denied. I filled the claim in 2016 and it has now been appealed to the counsel. I just want to know if you got back pay for all that time.

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 13:51 Permalink

In reply to by Pam (not verified)

Hi Pam,
the SSA determines back pay based on your Established Onset Date (EOD), which is when the SSA determines you were first disabled. They may pay back pay from the time that you became disabled.

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 09:16 Permalink
Patti Smith (not verified)

It's now been 203 days since I first applied. I have HCV Cirrhosis and can't work. It's hard to have a healthy diet when you can't afford food!

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 15:23 Permalink

In reply to by Patti Smith (not verified)

Hi Patti,

I am so sorry to hear about that. It takes about 3-4 months usually to apply for SSI and 3-5 months to apply for SSDI.
If you still have all the paperwork on your end, I would contact the SSA and speak with a representative and see if they can shed a light on where you are in the approval process.

Best Wishes,

Tue, 01/17/2017 - 16:37 Permalink
Danny lucas (not verified)

In reply to by Eric

Yes, I've waited two years for my hearing and I'm still waiting.I hope you all the best it's hell waiti,and being sick with hepc and cirrhosis is Hell!!!

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 07:45 Permalink
Lori (not verified)

I applied for ssi and was approved in less than 3 months. My lawyer was so shocked and I did my own application

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 12:59 Permalink

In reply to by Lori (not verified)

Hi Lori,
That's great to hear! Your case may be rare, as many people may require the help of an advocate or attorney when they start their case.

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 15:59 Permalink
Loretta (not verified)

In reply to by Lori (not verified)

Congratulations! Did they come up with a status on your online with we started reviewing the decision made by the Disability Determination Service and accurately processing of your benefit application. Then the next day they said "A medical decision has been made and we are working to process your benefit application. Please let me know

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 10:17 Permalink
Betty (not verified)

My Son is in the hospital & isn't able to work so will be trying to get financial help. Will it make any difference if his name is on something as a beneficiary? Will his name have to be removed?

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 13:29 Permalink

In reply to by Betty (not verified)

Hi Betty,
it may not, however if your son would be receiving income-based disability benefits, whatever income he received as a beneficiary (of an insurance policy, for example) may be considered income for the purposes of calculating his benefits.

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 09:33 Permalink
Coreena Burke (not verified)

I applied in 2015, I received 2 years long term disability insurance pay from my job. That will have to be paid back out of any back pay I may recieve. I will also have to pay for Allsup services out of whatever back pay I might recieve. I called a week or so ago and was told the judge has made a decision, but the could not give me any other info. It feels like purgatory waiting and waiting. Endlessly to see if I can have some semblance of a life again as we have been so horribly financially strapped.

Sun, 08/13/2017 - 02:00 Permalink
George Matthews (not verified)

I checked online the status of my claim. It said a medical decision has been made since 07/24/2017. I don't know what is next.

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 13:11 Permalink
Dave (not verified)

I checked online today and on phase 2 it said that 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. Now if a medical decision has been made why do they not say what the decision was second why would they maybe need additional documents or information if the case was denied?

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 15:14 Permalink

In reply to by Dave (not verified)

Hi Dave,

It does not mean that your claim was denied, they are still processing it and if they have any additional questions or need more documents from you they will let you know. Best of luck.

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 17:02 Permalink

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