Disability Claims Through Social Security - How Long is the Process?

If you have recently filed a claim for Social Security Disability (SSD), it may take longer than you think to receive a decision in your case.

While it is true the average time elapsed between the time you apply for disability and the time you receive a decision is about 90 days, many cases are not decided within this timeframe. It is not uncommon for it to take up to six months (or even longer) to receive a decision from disability determination services (DDS).

While it may be tempting to blame the slow pace on the disability examiner assigned to your case, it is far more likely that delays are caused by the failure of physicians and hospitals to forward medical records to the examiner in a timely fashion.

It may be hard to believe, but the disability examiner (who evaluates your level of disability based on information given in your medical records) has about as much incentive to process claims quickly as the claimants themselves. Examiners' performance evaluations are based on the number of cases they are able to close over a given period of time.

If three to four months has passed since you filed for disability and you haven't received word from DDS, call the social security office at which you filed the claim and ask if they can tell you if there has been a decision in your case. You can also ask them for the phone number to for the disability determination services in your area (this can go by a different name, but usually has the word disability somewhere in the title), because if you really want a detailed status of your disability case, this is where you need to call.

DDS should be able to direct you to the disability examiner who is assigned to your case, who can tell you if the case is pending or if a decision has been reached on your disability application or reconsideration appeal.

It can also give you the chance to find out the nature of the delay in your case'if your examiner is having difficulty getting records from a particular physician, you may want to call the doctor's office yourself, and (politely!) remind them that DDS has made a request for your records.

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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