Social Security Disability and SSI Questions and Answers
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
More questions about SSD and SSI
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
How much time does it take to get an SSI Decision?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
It really depends on what level of the social security disability system (FYI: the social security disability and SSI disability system are one and the same) your claim is pending at. Ordinarily, it can take months to process a claim at any level.
At the hearing level, of course, the waits can be much longer. Waiting for a disability hearing to be scheduled before an ALJ, or administrative law judge can take many months and, depending on the hearing office and its particular backlog situation, the wait may approach or even exceed a year. And after a disability hearing has been held, the time required to receive a decision from the ALJ can equate to months as well.
Note: even if the ALJ notifies the claimant and their disability attorney at the time of the hearing that the case will be approved, the payment of benefits can still be delayed for several months due to the fact that the decision will not be official until the actual notice of decision has been sent out. And receiving the notice of decision will often depend on how backed up the hearing decision writers are at a particular hearing office.
For those who are unaware, while disability judges make the decisions on cases heard at hearing offices, the responsibility for crafting the often lengthy decision notices is the responsibility of decision-writers who are usually staff attorneys. Unfortunately, decision writers have their own backlogs to deal with.
However, back to the question at hand: how long does it take to receive an SSI decision? At the disability application, or initial claim, level, it can take 90 to 120 days, on average, to get a decision on a disability case. At the next level, which is the reconsideration appeal level, the wait is usually not as long. A decision on a request for reconsideration appeal can often be received on an SSI or SSDI (social security disability insurance) case in 30-60 days.
For those who are interested in calling to check the status of a disability claim, bear in mind that the social security office will typically not be of much assistance in this area. This is because while an application for disability, while it is taken at a social security office, is not actually processed there.
Processing the claim--essentially evaluating the medical evidence to see if an individual satisfies the disability criteria of either the SSDI or SSI disability program--is handled by a state level agency that, in most states, is known as DDS, or disability determination services.
At DDS, cases are evaluated by disability examiners. The job function of a disability examiner is to see if the claimant's medical records reveal enough functional limitations (either physical limitations or mental limitations) such that they cannot be expected to return to their past work or peform any type of other work.
If an individual is found to be unable to perform work activity (either in going back to their past work or while doing some type of other work) at a level that can provide them with a substantial and gainful income (see Social Security SGA earnings limit), they may qualify for disability.
However, qualifying for disability benefits has an additional caveat. And this is also part of the social security administration definition of disability because qualifying for disability will mean that a person's state of disability (at the risk of being redundant, satisfying the SSA definition of disability will mean that a person will have the inability to work and earn a substantial gainful income while performing their past work or any other type of work) must last for at least one full year.
What happens if a person's condition is severe enough that it prevents them from working and earning a substantial and gainful income, but only in a period that lasts less than 12 months? Then their claim for disability will be denied on the basis of duration (not lasting long enough).
Having said that, however, if a case is being decided at the disability hearing level, a social security judge can award a lump sum payout for what is known as a closed period (a period in which the claimant met the medical rules for receiving disability which did not last for 12 months or longer). Note: Closed periods are only granted by judges at disability hearings.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions