How long before I know if my disability case has been approved?

One of the most common questions asked by disability claimants is, "How long will the disability approval process take?" Unfortunately, one of the most common misconceptions is that most applicants simply file their disability application and a few weeks later the disability check magically appears in their mail box or funds are deposited in their checking account.

So before we answer how long it will take, let's dispel any myths that you will automatically be approved for disability benefits. There are millions of SSDI and SSI applications each year, and most of the applicants are denied the first time they apply, forcing them to appeal multiple times over a period of months or years, before they are finally approved for benefits.

But assuming you meet all the basic requirements for disability benefits, you are approved, and your application sails through the disability application process, we will discuss the time frames for each step in the process.

Filing your disability application

To receive benefits you must first submit your SSDI or SSI application online or via mail to the SSA. The SSA will review your application and will attempt to make contact with you within 30 to 90 days. In many parts of the country this is a generous estimate due to the over whelming number of claims filed.

Whether you are approved or denied you will receive a letter. The denial letter will list the reason you were denied and give you information about how to appeal your denial. Denials must be appealed within 60 days from the date of the denial letter. Approval letters list the estimated payment and the payment date.

Filing a Reconsideration

Up to 75% of disability applicants will be denied at the application level. If you are denied you can file a reconsideration. In most states this is the first level of appeals and allows a second disability examiner, who did not review your case the first time, to take a second look at your case. The reconsideration can take another 30 to 90 days to complete. Up to 80% of disability applicants are denied at the reconsideration level.

Filing an appeal for a hearing

If you are denied at the reconsideration level you have 60 days to request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. This is where the fun really begins. Although the hearing will be your best chance to win benefits, it's not unusual for claimants in some parts of the country to wait six months to two years to have their hearing scheduled. If you are approved at the hearing level it could take another 30 to 90 days to receive the judge's approval letter.

Unfortunately, the hearing is the last appeal level within the SSA system. If you are denied SSDI or SSI benefits at the hearing you have two options- you can file another application and start the process again or you can file an appeal in court. Many lawyers will refuse to take cases to court and will recommend you simply file again.

Can my case be expedited?

Certain claimants have conditions which are automatically approved for benefits or claims which can be expedited. If you have a terminal condition or believe your claim should be expedited you can talk to the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or visit their website at for more information.

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