It typically takes three to six months to receive an initial disability decision after applying for Social Security benefits. If your initial application is denied and you must go through the appeals process, it can take nearly two years to reach a final decision. Applying sooner allows you to initiate this process and receive benefits more quickly. 

Different Phases Of The Application Process

Some of the essential phases of the disability application process are:

  • Initial application and evaluation
  • Reconsideration and hearing

Initial Application And Evaluation

Expect to receive an initial decision on your disability application within four to six months of submission. Throughout this period, your Disability Determination Services (DDS) office may request additional details and materials, giving you a 10-day window to submit any required paperwork. 

To streamline this stage, proactively reach out to your DDS office to confirm the receipt of your application and materials immediately after sending them. If you have legal representation, a disability attorney can expedite the process by faxing the materials and using fax receipts to ensure the DDS promptly receives them, keeping your application on track. (Learn more about what social security disability lawyers do?)

Reconsideration And Hearing

Given the DDS’s rejection rate of 63.9% for initial disability applications, most applicants face an additional wait of one and a half to two years after the first decision to secure benefits. Following the initial rejection, you have a 60-day window to apply for reconsideration, during which your application undergoes a second review. 

You must restart the application process if you fail to submit for reconsideration within this period. The Social Security Administration (SSA), responsible for reconsiderations, takes at least 100 days to process them, with an average processing time of 147 days in 2021.

Once the SSA completes the reconsideration process, you’ll receive either another acceptance or rejection. With a high rejection rate of approximately 90.8% at this stage, those denied will proceed to schedule a court hearing for an appeal, typically taking place one to one and a half years after the SSA decides on reconsideration. 

You’ll be notified of your hearing date at least 75 days in advance, during which, if you have legal representation, your attorney will confirm the date and prepare the necessary materials with you. 

Following the hearing, a final decision from the judge is usually delivered within one to one and a half months. While applicants with certain conditions may secure approval on their initial application, bypassing reconsideration and a hearing, this scenario is rare.

How Much Time It Takes For Disability Benefits Once They Are Approved?

Following SSA approval of your benefits, your initial payment will be issued within 60 days. SSDI payments are made in the month succeeding the due month, meaning a payment scheduled for June 2023 will be disbursed in July 2023. The payment schedule is determined by the day of your birth:

  • If your birthday falls between the 1st and 10th of the month, your payment will be on the second Wednesday.
  • Payments for birthdays between the 11th and 20th are scheduled for the third Wednesday.
  • Birthdays occurring after the 20th will receive payments on the fourth Wednesday.

For example, an individual born on May 6th will receive their first payment on the second Wednesday of the month following when the SSA owes payment.

What Is The Estimated Waiting Time To Get Back Pay After Approval?

Your back pay will be disbursed simultaneously with your first benefit check. The SSA officially designates the commencement of benefits as the sixth month following the date they determine your disability onset. Back pay encompasses any payments owed since that sixth month. 

For instance, if they establish your disability onset as April 2022, payments become due from October 2022. If your approval is in April 2023, you’ll be entitled to six months of back pay. 

How Can You Make The Disability Process Easier?

Navigating the intricate and protracted disability application process can be challenging. Approximately half of applicants reaching the hearing phase secure approval for benefits. Hiring an experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer significantly enhances your likelihood of success, with a threefold increase in the chance of winning benefits compared to those without legal representation.

FAQs on Getting Approved For Disability

Yes, your medical condition significantly influences your chances of winning Social Security disability benefits. Severe, documented impairments that meet Social Security criteria enhance your likelihood of approval. (Get detailed information on What Conditions Automatically Qualify You For Disability?)
Increasing your chances involves thorough medical history documentation, obtaining supportive statements from healthcare providers, and potentially seeking legal representation to navigate the complex application process. (Learn more on how to apply for the disability benefits?)
The choice between SSDI and SSI depends on your work history. SSDI is based on work credits, while SSI is need-based. If you qualify for both, you can apply for both simultaneously.
SSDI generally pays more than SSI, based on your work history and earnings. SSI has a set maximum payment, while SSDI considers your past income.
Geographical location doesn't directly impact benefit amounts. However, cost-of-living differences can affect your overall financial situation, potentially influencing your need for disability assistance.