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Things To Know About SSDI Approval Timeline

Last updated: April 9, 2023

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be an intimidating process. It’s important to understand the SSDI approval timeline and what you can expect from each step of the process. 

Knowing where you are in the process and what is expected from you at each stage will help make this journey smoother. Here’s a rundown of what to expect from the moment you submit your application until you receive approval. 

How Long Is The SSDI Approval Process?

How Long Is The SSDI Approval Process?

For every person who submits an SSDI application; the first question is how soon they can get approval for the benefit. After all, you want all the help you can get as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer. 

Different factors affect your approval process, such as:

  • Type and severity of disability
  • Completeness of application,
  • Where the application is filed.

Approval can be as quick as three months or as long as three years. 

The Application Process

There are three parts of the application process where you can get approved or denied. These are

  • Initial application stage
  • Reconsideration
  • Administrative Hearing

Initial Application Stage

Once you submit your application to the local SSA field office, they will take three to five months to review your documents. They will look if you meet the non-medical eligibility criteria and if you cannot support yourself financially due to your disability. 

You must meet the non-medical eligibility to be considered. Failure to do so will result in an automatic denial of your application. 

If you meet the non-medical criteria, your application moves to the next stage. It goes to the Disability Determination Services (DDS), which are in charge of examining whether your disability fits the SSA’s definition of disability. 

If your application has complete medical records, you can expect this process to go smoothly. Otherwise, the DDS examiner may ask for further proof of the disability from an accredited doctor. 

To expedite the initial application review, make sure that you submit all relevant medical records. However, the DDS also deals with a backlog of cases so expect that there will still be a waiting time even if you submit complete requirements. 

At this stage, only a third of the applications are approved. The rest are denied. If your application is denied, you can hear about it from the SSA and go to the next stage. 

Reconsideration Stage

You have 60 days to file an appeal from the date you were notified that your application was denied. When you appeal the initial decision of the DDS examiner, expect to wait for another three to five months for approval (or denial). 

Your application is considered a new application and reviewed by another DDS examiner without knowledge of the previous evaluation. 

Unfortunately, the majority of applications are still rejected at this point. If that happens, you can proceed to the final stage. 

Administrative Hearing Stage

After two denials, you can appeal to an administrative law judge and request an administrative hearing. You have 60 days to do this following the notice of your application’s denial. This could already be the sixth or tenth month since your initial application. 

The administrative hearing takes a long time, depending on your state. Some states, like Illinois, can take an average of 14 months before the applicant gets a hearing. 

How To Speed Up The Process

Looking at the timeline above and the high rate of denials, applying for the SSDI benefit can feel discouraging. But there are ways for you to speed up the process and secure approval. 

  • Verify that your disability fits in the SSA’s compassionate allowance list. This list includes conditions like cancer and adult brain disorders and receives speedy approvals. 
  • Verify that you meet all the criteria in the SSA Blue Book. The book contains conditions that the SSA considers disabling, and meeting those conditions will secure approval. 
  • Determine if your condition qualifies for a quick disability determination. These conditions have readily available medical evidence making the approval extremely likely. 
  • Let the SSA know if your condition is terminal. These types of cases receive almost instant approvals. 

SSDI applicants must ensure that all documentary and medical requirements are met when applying for SSDI. Doing so will ensure you get approved during the initial round of reviews. 

Get Started With Your Application Today

Applying for SSDI

Waiting for approval for your SSDI claim can be nerve-wracking. The SSDI approval timeline takes quite a while, especially with the huge number of cases the SSA reviews daily. It’s also disheartening to receive a denial after a long waiting period and be subjected to the grueling efforts of seeking reconsideration or waiting for an administrative hearing. 

To ensure that you get assistance for your disability, complete your applications early and make sure all requirements are met. Review the criteria defined by the SSA, and if you can, consult with a disability lawyer. They can help ensure that your requirements are complete and your application is properly filled out to ensure higher chances of success. 

You should also practice for your SSI interview. While waiting for the SSDI approval, you can also explore other income-generating options. This will help you get by as you wait for the SSA’s decision on your claim. 

Ultimately, don’t be discouraged even if you’re waiting for a long time and have initial setbacks. A disability is hard, but it’s even tough if you lose out on hope. 

Social Security can also help with adapting your home for your disability. Check out our blog on Social Security Disability Housing Assistance.

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Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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