How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

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.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

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.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

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?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.