Social Security Disability Resource Center

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How long does it take to get a decision on Social Security disability or SSI?

There is no certain amount of time for a medical decision on a social security disability claim or SSI claim to be processed. Usually, though, the Social Security Administration makes a medical decision on an SSD or SSI application within 30-120 days of being taken. Working as a disability examiner myself, I found that a high percentage of claims would be decided generally by the 90th day of processing.

However, some disability claims take longer to process due to a variety of reasons, which may include a lack of current medical evidence, an inability to contact the disability claimant, and missed medical or psychological exams which have been scheduled by Social Security (these are known as consultative exams). The following suggestions may help shorten the length of time needed to process your disability claim.

1. Notify Social Security of all address and telephone number changes. A disability examiner who is working on your social security disability or SSI claim may need to contact you directly and ask questions about your daily activities (what you do in your normal "activities of daily living" may reflect your various physical or mental limitations), your work history (for instance, the examiner may be having difficulty identifying your job title based on the description you provided at the time of submitting your application for disability).

2. Respond to all information requests from the Social Security Administration and from the state agency (DDS, or disability determination services) responsible for making medical determinations on disability claims for the social security administration (this is where the disability examiner working on your case is based). As we said in item 1, the examiner may need to contact you about one or more aspects of your case. The quicker you respond, the sooner the disability examiner can move to get your case ready for a decision.

In some instances, if the examiner cannot reach you on the phone, or if your number has changed, they will send you a "call-in letter". This letter gives you ten days to respond. If you do not respond within the alloted timeframe, there is the slight possibility that your case could be denied for failure to cooperate (though, usually, the examiner would send more than one letter).

3. If you are scheduled for a Social Security medical or psychological evaluation (known as a CE, or consultative exam), be sure that you go to your appointment. You may reschedule your consultative exam if you need to, but remember this will most likely add additional processing time to your claim. If you know that you cannot attend a consultative exam on the appointed date, you will need to call and reschedule the examination. Do not simply "miss the appointment", because your disability claim may be denied for failure to attend your consultative examination.

Claimants are often confused as to the purpose of the examination appointment, wondering why they are being sent to one. It should be pointed out that the exam is not to provide treatment. But, instead, to get a quick snapshot of your current physical or mental limitations (some exams are mental in nature and may consist of IQ testing or memory testing).

Occasionally, a claimant will be sent to a type of exam for a condition that they do not believe they have. When this happens, it is because something in the medical indicated that a certain condition might exist. For example, a claimant's family doctor might have briefly noted "depression" in his or her treatment notes. This alone can result in a claimant being sent to a mental status exam.

4. Call Social Security from time to time to inquire about the status of your claim. The state disability agency may not have been able to contact you for some reason, or may need you to provide additional information, or there may have been a decision made on your case that, for one reason or another you did not receive notification of. It happens extraordinarily often that a claimant will not call to check on their case until four or five months have gone by, only to learn that their case was denied three months earlier and that the 60 day deadline has already passed.

Claimants who are represented can have their disability attorney or non-attorney representative conduct periodic status checks. Those who are not represented may wish to call once every 60 days. Where do you call? You can call the social security office. By doing that, you can at least learn if a decision has been made. However, it is often better to call the disability examiner who is working on the case at disability determination services. The number for the examiner can be obtained from the social security office where you initially filed your claim.

Keep in mind, however, that the disability examiner will not be able to tell you how long your case will take. Nor will the examiner be able to reveal the decision on your case if one has already been made.

  • 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:

    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?
    What Conditions Qualify For Social Security Disability?
    How do you get 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