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How long does it take to receive Social Security Disability Benefits?

One of the most common questions asked by SSDI or SSI claimants is how long do I have to wait for a disability decision. Many claimants have waited weeks and the SSA has not responded. Other claimants want to know if it the rumor that it could take up to 2 years is true.

Disability Process

So why does it take so long? Here is the answer.

After you file your Social Security Disability application the Social Security Administration is allowed 90 to 120 days to make their initial disability decision, and up to 70% of the initial disability applications are denied.

If you are denied at the Social Security Disability application level you have 60 days to file your Reconsideration (which is the first step in the Social Security Disability appeals process). The SSA may allow another 30 to 90 days to make their decision at the Reconsideration level. Unfortunately, up to 80% of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income claimants are denied a second time.

What if you are denied a second time? Claimants denied at the Reconsideration level have up to 60 days to request a Social Security Disability hearing. At this point your SSDI or SSI application or claim is sent to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) for the region that services the area in which you live.

This is where the waiting can really start. In many parts of the country the hearing case loads which are pending number in the hundreds and may be divided among only 5 to 10 Administrative Law Judges. The volume of Social Security Disability cases can be overwhelming for the number of judges available to hear the claims. It is not unusual for disability claimants to wait 12-14 months for a Social Security Disability hearing.

Do all cases go through the same process? No, the Social Security Administration has aggressively been making changes the disability process and they have created expedited approval processes for claimants who have a condition which clearly meet the pre-established medical criteria established by the SSA, who have certain terminal illnesses (ex. AIDS, ALS, bone marrow transplant cases, any malignant cancer that is metastatic (stage IV), and small cell or oat cell lung cancer), and the wounded warriors program for officers seriously injured or disabled from their military service on or after Oct. 1, 2001,

The bad news is with the down turn in the economy, there have been more workers applying for Social Security Disability benefits than ever before, and the number of cases which must be reviewed by the SSA is very high.

What does this mean for you? Unless your mental or physical health condition automatically meets or exceeds a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments and you are able to avoid all appeals, especially waiting for an administrative hearing, it could take 3 months to 2 years for you to win Social Security Disability benefits.

What if you are approved at some point in the process outlined above? If you are approved at either the application, reconsideration or hearing level, it can take 30 days to 90 days to start receiving benefits. If you are approved for benefits the Social Security Administration will send you a letter which tells you your payment amount and the estimated date of your first payment.

If you would like a disability attorney to review your claim you can fill out the FREE evaluation form and a disability advocate will call you to review your claim or you can call our office at 1-800-641-3759 to talk to someone now.