Social Security Disability Resource Center

Overview | How to Qualify | Applications
Requirements | How long it takes | Back Pay
Mental Disability | What is a disability? | Tips
SSI Benefits | How to Win | Disability Awards
Hearings | Appeals | List of Disabling Conditions

How Long Will it Take To Get a Disability Decision Letter from Social Security?

The wait time for a decision letter from Social Security varies based on the case in question. It also depends on what level the case is at. For example, if a person has only just filed their initial claim, or application for disability, then they can expect an answer on their claim within the standard 90 to 120 days of case processing.

Why does it take this long?

Mainly, it takes this amount of time due to 1. how many claims disability examiners (the individuals who make decisions on claims that have not gotten to the hearing level yet) have in their caseload and 2. how long it takes the disability examiner to gather the claimant's medical records as well as all the necessary information about their work history, or school performance if they are a child.

If the disability examiner has trouble gathering your records, you can be assured it will take longer to get a decision letter. This is why it is important, when you apply for disability, to supply full and complete information about your medical treatment sources. If you fail to list the correct names of medical practices, or wrong addresses, it will slow the process down. Likewise, you want to supply accurate information about your work history, including correct descriptions of your jobs and the duties performed. Finally, if you are scheduled to go to a Social Security medical exam, do not miss your appointment. Missed appointments can add weeks of processing time to your case.

If you get denied for disability and file a reconsideration appeal (as most do), you can generally expect to receive a faster decision letter. Usually within 60 days, but often within 30 days. This is because the reconsideration appeal is a near-repeat of the application and most of the "pieces", i.e. medical evidence and other evidence, has already been gathered.

If your case is at the hearing level and you have already had your hearing, it is very indeterminate as to when you will get a decision letter. It may be weeks or months before the hearing office notifies you. If you had a disability lawyer for the hearing, that person can check the status of your claim.

A little about the disability system

There are two disability programs under which one may be approved for disability: Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You don't have to worry about which to apply for; Social Security will handle that. In order to qualify for either disability program, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that, due to their physical or mental impairment, they are unable to earn the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount each month (the current SGA limit).

However, those who have not worked enough to collect SSD (this program is available only to those who have worked and thus paid a certain dollar amount into the system over the years) must also be able to prove that they own assets with a total value of no more than $2,000 to qualify for SSI (not counting one car and one place of residence).

When someone applies for disability, their application is immediately evaluated by the Social Security office to see if they qualify for disability in either program. Depending upon his or her work history and total assets, an applicant may qualify for SSD, SSI, or both (this is called a concurrent disability claim).

However, regardless of which disability program the applicant is eligible to collect benefits from, the burden of proof regarding medical documentation is the same.

Most disability claims (about 70 percent) are denied at the initial application level, and most first appeals are unsuccessful as well (over 80%). However, if you are approved for SSD or SSI at either of these levels, you can expect to receive a notice of approval within a few days. Sometimes there is a bit of delay, particularly if matters such as workmans’ compensation, manual benefit computations, or capability development need to be factored into the decision.

Collecting disability benefits

To collect either SSD or SSI, there must be solid medical evidence in the form of medical records from a licensed physician or psychologist, indicating 1) the patient has a severe impairment that is expected to endure for no less than 12 months, and 2) the impairment prevents him from being able to earn the SGA at any job he has performed in the past 15 years or any other job that someone with his work skills, education, etc., could switch to.

How many appeals are needed?

The majority of disability applicants who are approved for disability must appeal not once, but twice. The second appeal is a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), and it is at this level that most claims are approved. If an ALJ grants your claim for disability, it generally takes a bit longer to receive a decision letter from Social Security. This is because the judge must write his or her decision before the claim can be processed at the payment center.

In addition, all claims granted either solely or concurrently under the SSI program are sent back to the local Social Security office for a final review called the PERC review. The PERC review is a final check to be sure that the disability applicant still meets the financial requirements for SSI, or, if the claim is concurrent, that the applicant is eligible to receive SSI during the mandatory 5-month waiting period that applies to those who collect SSD.

  • What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

  • What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

  • Which conditions will social security recognize as a disability?

  • Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

  • SSDRC Homepage:

    Social Security Disability and SSI Resource Center

    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

    Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Medical exams for disability claims

    Applying for Disability in various states

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

    What you should know about Social Security Disability and SSI Denials

    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits

    FAQ on Disability Claim Representation

    Disability hearings before Judges

    Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

    Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits for Children

    Disability Benefits through Social Security

    Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

    Filing your claim for disability benefits

    Eligibility for receiving disability benefits

    Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved

    FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions

    The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration

    Resources on this site

    Social Security Disability, SSI Terms and Definitions

    Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

    For Individuals living in North Carolina

    Applying for Disability in North Carolina

    North Carolina Disability Lawyer

    Related pages:

    What is the fastest decision I can get for SSDI?
    When should you file an appeal for SSI or SSDI?
    How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
    How long does it take to get a decision on Social Security disability or SSI?
    How Long Does It Take To Get Disability Benefits When You First File?
    How long will it take to start getting disability benefits after you have received an award notice?
    How Long Can You Receive Social Security Disability Benefits?
    How long does it take to appeal a disability case?
    How long does it take for the disability decision in North Carolina?
    How long does it take to receive North Carolina disability benefits after you are approved?
    How Long Will It Take For A Decision Letter For Social Security Disability?

    These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

    Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
    How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
    Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
    What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
    How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
    How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
    Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
    Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria