How long does it take to get a Social Security Disability hearing decision?

The answer to this question varies as much as the answer to the question, "How long does it take to get a decision on an application for disability?". The truth is that there is simply no way to know, following the holding of a hearing before an administrative law judge, just how long it will take to receive a decision.

When it comes to initial claims (i.e. disability applications), decisions are generally received within 120 days from the date of filing. However, decisions can take much much longer due to the following factors:

1. The time it takes a disability examiner to gather a claimant's medical records.

2. Whether or not a consultative examination (another way of saying a social security physical or mental exam) will need to be scheduled before a decision can be made.

3. How quickly the claimant responds to requests for information (such as for additional information regarding the claimant's medical treatment sources, work history, and activities of daily living).

When it comes to getting a Social Security Disability hearing decision, however, the length of time it takes to get a decision letter is dependent on how backed up the hearing office is. After a hearing has been held and a judge has decided the outcome for a case, an individual at the hearing office known as a decision writer will need to compile the notice of decision that will be sent to the claimant (informing them that they have been approved or denied for benefits).

However, decision writers are often considerably backed up due to the tremendous volume of cases being brought to hearings. For this reason, even if a disability judge manages to make a fairly quick decision on a case, it may still take months longer for the claimant to receive notification of a decision.

What should a claimant do if their hearing was held months ago and no decision notice has been received? Contact the hearing office where the hearing was held and ask for an update. Better yet, of course, if the claimant was represented at the hearing, the representative should contact the hearing office and ask for a status update.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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