How long it can take to get disability benefits following an approval, can vary tremendously. If you are only just filing a disability application in either the social security disability or SSI disability program, you will, most likely, receive an answer within 12 weeks, or four months. Social Security Claims representatives often use a blanket statement that a disability application will be processed in 90 to 120 days.
It is important to bear in mind, however, that this may only be an agency processing goal. While most cases probably are determined within this timeframe, there are also cases that take six months to a year in order to deliver a decision on an SSD or SSI disability application.
These cases are the minority and tend to involve extenuating circumstances such as the disability examiner having a high degree of difficulty obtaining the claimant's medical records, or the claimant having to go to several consultative medical exams scheduled (and paid for) by Social Security.
Just the same, with so many variables involved in disability claims, it would not be prudent for a claimant to absolutely expect a decision and resolution to their claim in the quoted 90-120 day period.
Situations where disability applications can be decided quickly
Having said this, there are cases that are approved at the application level relatively quickly. For instance, if an individual has a disabling condition that a) fits the approval criteria of a quick disability decision case (known as QDD), b) is a physical or mental condition that is on the compassionate allowance list, c) is a terminal illness condition, or d) satisfies the criteria of a Social Security listing, they are likely to be approved for disability benefits in a fairly short amount of time.
Note: A relatively small number of cases qualify for disability through these avenues.
For claimants denied on a disability application (nationally, about 70 percent of all claims are denied at this level), the next step will be file the first appeal available to claimants. This is the request for reconsideration.
How long will it take to receive a decision on a reconsideration appeal
The reconsideration typically takes considerably less time to process than the disability application. This is because when the reconsideration takes place, just a few days or weeks following the disability application phase, most of the development work for the case has already been done, meaning the claimant's work history has been evaluated and their medical records have been obtained and evaluated.
It may be necessary to obtain additional medical records if, by the time of the reconsideration, there is no "recent" evidence in the file (recent is defined by SSA as evidence that is not older than 90 days). If so, this will add more processing time to the claim. Typically, though, a decision made at the reconsideration appeal level may be made within 60 days.
How long will it take to receive benefits after an approval has been made?
Now, assuming you are actually approved on a disability claim after a decision has been reached at the disability application or reconsideration appeal level, how long will it take to receive benefits? This can vary tremendously as well. Typically, the social security administration will try to get individuals into pay status within just a few weeks of their claim being approved.
However, if your approval comes at the level of a disability hearing, it may take longer for you to receive your benefits since your case may get hung up at a payment processing center.
And, of course, even if your disability judge indicates at the time of the hearing that your case will be approved, before the case is even sent to a payment processing center it may be delayed because the judge's decision is not final until it has been written by a decision writer and then mailed to you, the applicant. And in many cases getting the written decision can take months.
Of course, if you have representation, this is an ideal way to utilize your disability attorney by having his or her office conduct followups on the disposition of your case and the payout of your benefits.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center . or read answers to Questions