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How long will I wait to get a Social Security disability hearing decision and what should I do while I wait?

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Learn how long you will wait for a Social Security Disability hearing date and a decision, and what you can do to help your appeal while you wait.

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Waiting for a Disability Hearing Date and Decision

A Social Security hearing with an Administrative Law Judge is the second level of appeal. You can request a hearing if your reconsideration has been denied or only partially approved. Your request for hearing will be processed by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, commonly called the hearing office.
The Social Security Administration said that the average number of days it took to process a request for hearing in 2011 was 491. That’s seventy weeks or sixteen and a half months. A relatively small part of that time occurs after the hearing, when the Administrative Law Judge writes up his decision. How long it takes to get a hearing date and/or how long it takes the judge to render a decision after the hearing depends on the number of hearings being filed at that time and the complexity of your own claim. If the judge wants additional medical information, either before or after the hearing, it can lengthen processing time.

Supporting Your Disability Appeal While Waiting

While you are waiting for your hearing to be held, there are a few things you can do to help your claim: Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice, including keeping requested appointments and filling your prescriptions on time. Advise your doctors that you have filed a hearing. If you have changes in your health, or you have a vocational assessment or new medical testing, tell your attorney or the hearing office right away. Also report any changes in your work activity or address.

If you do not already have professional representation, don’t wait till the last minute to hire an lawyer who is experienced with Social Security Disability law and disability hearings. Your attorney can start work on gathering everything needed for your hearing as soon as it is filed. For information about what happens at a Social Security hearing, please see our article “What Is a Social Security Disability Hearing and What Can I Expect When I Request a Disability Hearing?” For additional information on the value of having a lawyer for your Social Security Disability hearing, see “How Can a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help Me Get Social Security Benefits?”

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79 Comments

  1. Phillip R says:

    Hi there, I was denied for SSDI. and got a Disability Attorney handling my case.
    I don’t want to bother my case manager at the law firm. But would like to keep up dated if possible. When I last spoke to her she said it can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months more or less for a hearing/appointment to be made.

    Is there a way to go online & see where I am in the process?

  2. mary salter says:

    I need to know what my decision was

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Mary,

      This forum can provide knowledgeable information about Social Security Disability, but I do not have access to your Social Security records. You can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1010 or, if you applied online, to check the status of your claim online.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

      • Eric says:

        That number is incorrect. Its a chat line.

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Eric,

          The two numbers I recommend are 1-800-772-1213 for Social Security’s national call center and 1-888-393-1010 for Disability Advisor’s attorney contact line. If another number was posted, I apologize for the typographical error.

          Sincerely,

          Kay

  3. melody says:

    I had a hearing September 19 2013 and still no answer. My question is at my hearing the VE said i could work at a certain job with 1400 jobs available but on 20 in Nc. Then all other scenarios where no jobs with my limitations. I called on December thr 4 2013 and was told then that the judge still hadn’t made a decision and it was still on her desk. Dors the government shutting down have anything with why it has been almost 90 days with no decision?? At the end she did ask for futher medical records and a prescription?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Melody,

      The government shutdown did put a stress on all resources. It is possible that they are still catching up. However, if they have asked for more information, do get it to them as soon as possible.

      Best regards,

      Kay

  4. melody says:

    Thamk you. I did semd in all that was asked through my lawyer. Just didn’t know why the judge still hasn’t madr a decision and with the VE saying i could do light work but there were only 20 jobs in that field will that have a denial decision?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Melody,

      The judge will have to make a decision regarding whether there is an adequate labor market (not job vacancies, but jobs that exist). If he determines there is, your claim may be denied. If he determines that there is not an adequate labor market, then your claim could be approved. How long it takes to get a decision depends on the judge’s workload and can be unpredictable, even though a decision is supposed to be made within sixty days.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  5. Aida says:

    I had a hearing on September 12,2013 and still haven’t heard anything does anybody know how long it take for a decision ?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Aida,

      The general guideline is that judges will make their decisions within sixty days of the hearing; however, it sometimes takes longer. I suggest calling the hearing office and asking whether a decision has been made. If it has then your claim may be in the letter wriiting department and the hearing office may be able to give you some kind of an estimate when it will be mailed to you. (Note: They will not tell you the decision verbally.)

      Best regards,

      Kay

    • Melissa says:

      Is it really taking that long it get a decision from your heering? I thought it only took about 4 to 6 weeks? Hope you hear soon.

      • Kay Derochie says:

        Dear Melissa,

        The guideline given is within sixty days, but some appeal decisions are taking longer.

        Sincerely,

        Kay

  6. Denisha Hardin says:

    Hello, I had my hearing in August 2013, then I was sent to a Doctor in October, I called and they said a decision has been made last month. They stated my case went to a writer, and is now on the judge’s desk. What are my chances for favorable or how long till something is sent out? I’m very nervous!!!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Denisha,

      I cannot predict whether your claim has been approved or denied, but you should receive a decision fairly soon. The letter has been prepared and is just waiting for the judge to review it to be sure everything in it is correct before it is sent out.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  7. steve blue says:

    i had my hearing on nov. 15 2013 and as of feb 5 no answer..but i called last week and was told its “being written” and at my hearing the VE agreed with my lawyer that i am disabled…how long does the “being written” process take before i recieve a ruling?? and is the ALJ bound to the expert testimony of the VE ??…thank you :)

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Steve,

      The vocational expert’s (VE’s) opinion was offered in response to the judge asking whether you could perform any occupations given the limitations you are claiming. The judge must decide two things: Do you really have those limitations and if so is there work you can do? If the judge finds that your claimed limitations are supported, then you are likely to be approved because of the VE’s opinion.

      If your appeal is in the writing department, the judge has made the decision. It can take a couple weeks or more for the the very detailed letter to be written.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  8. Tracy says:

    Hi I’ve been waiting a year today for my alj hearing do anybody know about how much longer it will be to get a hearing

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Tracy,

      It is not uncommon to wait a year or more for a hearing date. You might check with the hearing office to see if they can give you an estimate of how much longer you will wait, though it is likely they cannot.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

    • estella says:

      In may or june you should get a hearing date I think that’s when all the hearing.. because my daughter was then and mines two..

      • Kay Derochie says:

        Dear Estella (and Tracy, to whom Estella addressed her comment),

        Hearings are held year around, not just in certain months of the year.

        Sincerely,

        Kay

  9. chibi says:

    What if went threw all the process waiting on a hearing then get a letter saying mite have a favorable decision on my behalf how long is the typical wait on this judgement?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Chibi,

      If the letter from the judge says it is a favorable decision (not that it might be), then it means that the judge made a decision based on the information in your claim file without need for a hearing. If that is the case, your Social Security office will take the actions needed to start payment, which can take sixty days or longer.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  10. chibi says:

    Without having a hearing.

  11. chibi says:

    O okay thank you. Its been only 2 months was worried. They’d say okay you’ve waited this long now wait longer for your hearing court date. But thank you so much for your time in answering my question.

  12. Kimberly Martin says:

    I first filed for Disability on my own May 2012, Denied… I hired an attorney in October or November 2012 filed an appeal denied. Refiled, still waiting on hearing date as of January 2013. I will be so glad to have a hearing date…

  13. Danielle Lander says:

    I got a letter stating that I will get a hearing with the AJL. My question is if there is new medical information regarding my health can I get approved for ssd while still waiting for a hearing?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Danielle,

      Now that you have requested a hearing, the decision will be made by the administrative law judge. You can submit the new information before the hearing date, but the judge may still want a hearing to hear your testimony and possibly that of an expert vocational witness. That said, occasionally an approval decision will be rendered “on the [written] record” before the hearing date, eliminating the need for a hearing.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  14. Dan P. says:

    I had my Hearing in May of 2013 and in November I call my lawyer asking the status and they said its in decision writing. Is now March and no letter and no update that is different. Is this normal for. Decision to take almost a year. I understand the shut down held up some cases but what could take so long? Is this normal. I had 4 doctors state I can not work. I am concerned. Should I be?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Dan,

      I do not know why each step is taking as long as it is except that that particular hearing office may have a larger-than-average backlog. (Backlogs are not caused only by the shutdown but also due to long-term understaffing related to the national budget.) However, given that the appeal is in writing, the decision has been made. Now it appears to be stalled in the department that prepares the very detailed, many-page letter.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  15. tangela says:

    I called the hearing office 2weeks ago and was told a desision had been made but was waiting to be signed. I was wondering how long it would take to finally find out something I had my hearing Nov. 13 2013.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Tangela,

      The information that you received indicates that your hearing decision is in the final step for completion. It is not possible to predict how long it will take. The judge reviews the letter that has been prepared to be sure everything in it is correct and then signs off on it. If there is an error, it will be sent back to the writing department.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  16. darren says:

    Hi Kate i had on January the 16th, now I’m just waiting for the judge decision I hope everything went right, she asked me the reason why that I couldn’t work and I told her the reason was because I had of the righteous of my wrist high blood pressure and pans out my back, so the guy that was in there that was telling her that I can work different job she asked me I told her that I can work simply job and she asked me can I work and I said no because of the pain and my wrist, she asked me about my work history and that was it it was about 15 minutes and then everything was over she never asked me about my skull background just my work history and that was it so I hope everything went okay what is your input on this can you please give me input on this thank you very much. sincerely Darren Jeter

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Darren,

      I cannot predict whether you will be approved or not. However, the judge will know what the physical and mental demands of and skills required for your past occupations. She will get the information from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, which is an enormous data base of information about nearly all the occupations in the United States. The judge will evaluate whether the information you provided supports the limitations you say you have. She will then judge whether those limitations would prohibit your working in the jobs suggested by the vocational expert.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  17. darren says:

    Daer, Ms Kay i had a hearing on Jan 16 2014 and i know they it can take up to 60 days or longer, but i call monday just past and the gentleman that answer the phone ask For all my info i gave it to him, then he asked what was my question for him today to check the status on my hearing decision,so he look and said should be getting something in a couple of weeks but I forgot to give them my account information, so when I call back today she looked it up and said there’s nothing yet so my question is why earlier this week I called and somebody said one thing and then today somebody says something else can you help me please. Thank you darren

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Darren,

      I can’t explain why you were told that you would get a decision in a couple of weeks. I think he may have been speaking loosely. The representative in the local office would not have any way of really knowing how long it will take for the hearing decision. If you follow up on it again, I suggest calling the hearing office, rather than the Social Security office. Once the appeal is in the letter writing department, you will know that a decision has been made and that things are progressing toward your being notified, but even then the time frame for receiving the letter isn’t predictable.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  18. Karen Monique Shell says:

    Hi my name is Karen I had a disability hearing on February 7 2014 the decision was made march 5 2013. During the hearing the vocational expert. said twice no there isn’t any jobs for me at this time being disabled does that mean that my clay will be approved this is my second hearing. If your lawyer represented you do they know the out come of your decion

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Karen,

      If the judge believes the evidence supports the limitations that the vocational expert was considering when saying that he or she could not identify jobs you could perform, then your claim likely will be approved. Your attorney will be notified of the hearing decision at the same time as you are. It can take a few weeks for the letter to be written and reviewed before it is sent to you and the attorney.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  19. Latrice says:

    Hi Kay,
    I had my hearing on January 7th 2014. I called the office a couple of times in the past few weeks. The first few times I called I was advised my case was with a Senior Attorney. What exactly does the Senior Attorney do pertaining to my case? Also, I called today and the representative told me a decision was made but it was waiting to be written. From the previous comments I see it can take a couple of weeks however I want to know if I can know anything sooner I t’s h ard waiting for a decision not knowing which directon to go in as far as my life goes, its like I’m stuck waiting for a yes or a no.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Latrice,

      The hearing office will not tell you whether the decision is favorable or unfavorable. You will have to wait for the letter, which can take a month or more after it goes into writing.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  20. Aria says:

    I am currently awaiting a hearing with the AJL and completely understand how backed logged they are at the moment. My question is I just sent in new medical records and a letter from my doctor stating that I cannot work at this time. Will they review the new information or do they wait until it gets closer to a hearing?

    Thank you so much in advance.

  21. Janet says:

    What is a “packet” from the Social Security office that it sent out before a hering and what does it mean?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Janet,

      It sounds as if you do not have an attorney to help you with your claim. If you do, I suggest that you confer with your attorney about providing the information in the packet, which may be a list of documents or information to submit before the hearing. If you do not have an attorney, it would be a good idea to get one. You can obtain an excellent Social Security attorney by calling Disability Advisor at 1-888-393-1010. You do not have to pay any legal fees up front and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount your attorney can charge and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from your retroactive award at the time they send your back pay to you. So, it’s all very easy and risk-free.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  22. Ann says:

    hi Kay I am so glad to find this on the internet I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, lumbar sacral c6 c7 cervical Paraspinal,dic osteophyte complex, and radiculapathy. I had my hearing in front of a judge in January2014 this is March2014 and they told me that the judge has made a decision and it would be in the mail does this sound like maybe I have a chance of getting approved? worried cause he made a decision so quick

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Ann,

      The speed with which the judge made the decision is not an indicator of whether you have been approved or denied. I can’t predict what the decision will be but it sounds as if you will have it before long.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  23. Lenora Parker says:

    DEAR KAY,

    I had a hearing on March 4th and today is March 31st and I called and they told me it was with the decision writer… how long does it stay with them?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Lenora,

      Depending on whether there is a backlog, your appeal can be in decision writing from a week or two to more than a month.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  24. Tina McFalls says:

    I first signed up 2/26/12, got denied,hired a lawyer, got denied again . Finally went to ALJ video hearing 11/7/13, the judge requested more info, I called my congressman, they said its still in the decision process, how much longer does this take, it’s 4/3/14. This is very nerve checking day in and day out..I could see if I was trying to get something for free, but I worked very hard and long time, it’s our money why can’t we just get it back. Ps..all hearing was horrible I felt abused after I left..please help, going crazy

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Tina,

      I suggest that you ask your attorney to contact the hearing office to find out whether the judge has received the requested information and, if not, what is outstanding. That way, if the judge is waiting for something, you or the attorney can follow up to get it.

      Best regards,

      Kay

  25. juliushelton says:

    hello. I had a hearing Aug 2013. Got Unfavorable decision in Sept. My Lawyer filed the paperwork re:appeal because they had had all the facts wrong and other things that my lawyer wrote and sent to them.How long does this process take? I know along time. Just like to know something, Ive had my lawyer send in new material to show my disability. What office can I call or should I even call I dont want to damage my case. My lawyer just tells me to wait….

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Julius,

      I would follow your lawyer’s advice and just wait. It can take up to two years for a reply and calling will not speed anything up.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  26. Tina McFalls says:

    Thanks Kay, yes they did get everything, lawyer said everybody’s is slow for some reason. Thanks for listening, it helps.. still waiting is horrible, just want to take some stress off myself and my husband, 2 years and 5 months without 2 incomes is hard to do..:((

  27. ron says:

    Has anyone ever had a hearing with a AlJ and there was no VOCATIONAL EXPERT present. What if anything does that mean? ALL replies welcome.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Ron,

      Dear Ron,

      You do not say how old you are, what your disability is, or the kinds of work you have done in the past. It is possible that the judge did not think vocational testimony was needed to decide your claim. This could especially be true if you are age fifty or older.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  28. Lynn says:

    Hearing Held July 2012. STILL NO DECISION. Seems here everyone is getting a decision within 60 days. I am going on 2 years. Any suggestions?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Lynn,

      Waiting two years for a hearing decision is way outside the norm. Do you have an attorney? If so, I suggest discussing with your attorney what action he or she recommends. If you do not have an attorney and you have not called the hearing office recently, I recommend that you do so to be sure the claim is still pending and that the decision letter has not gone astray. If they say the claim is still pending,I recommend going to a Social Security office and asing to speak to a supervisor to find out if they can somehow callthe attention of the hearing office to the judge’s long delay. If your claim has been denied and you didn’t get a letter, you can try to appeal stating that the date they told you of the denial was your first notice. If you have to appeal, request a copy of the decision letter and try to get an attorney. You might also contact your local congressman as a call from a congressman’s office would call attention to how long the appeal had been pending.

      Best regards,

      Kay

  29. Olivia says:

    Hello,
    I 1st filed for Disability in feb. 2012 and i went straight through a lawyer thinking it wouldn’t take as long compared to getting denied twice and then hiring one, but in my case, it has taken, 2 applications and 2 denials on each and finally 1st of may 2013, i was told i’d be getting a hearing date in the mail. well that took eight months before i had a hearing. my hearing was 4 weeks ago today. i called my lawyer today and she still says she hadn’t heard anything either but what happened at the hearing had never happened to her before. the judge had no questions for me nor did the the Voc. advocate. i don’t know if thats a good thing or not. who can i call to check on the status of my hearing? how much longer do you think i will have to wait and what do you think about the No questions deal?
    Thanks, Jenny

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Olivia,

      The judge having no questions is very unusual. The judge must have read all the records and felt he or she could make a decision from those records; although usually if this happens, there is no hearing. You can call the hearing office and ask the status. They will not tell you the decision, but the will tell you whether a decision is still pending or a decision has been made and the appeal is in letter writing. You might try calling every couple of weeks. It can take two months or longer to receive a decision.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  30. Tim Marquez says:

    I called AJ they said it was being written.How long does that take.I have been waiting since Jan 23 2014 was my hearing date.If anyone can help.Thanks.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Tim,

      It can take a couple weeks to a month for the letter to be prepared and returned to the judge to review for accuracy. If the letter is correct, it will be mailed out right away. If not, it will go back to writing for correction.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  31. Jennifer says:

    i had my hearing with the alj in jan it will be 90 days this month and still no decision letter does that usually mean a denial im freaking out any advice would b appreciated

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Jennifer,

      The length of time you wait for a hearing decision is not an indication of whether your claim will be approved or denied. You can call the hearing office every couple weeks to see where it is in the process.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  32. Claire says:

    I have a couple of questions if you would be so kind as to answer as I have no idea how this process works.

    1. I am currently awaiting a hearing with the AJL, what is the time frame from the time you get a letter stating a hearing has been requested to the time you actually get the hearing?

    2. Does a SSD advocate/lawyer really help with the process or is it something that can be done on your own?

    3. How would I go about finding out if new medical records I sent in to my local appeals/review office actually made it to my file?

    4. Lastly if I go through the hearing process and get denied do I still qualify for SSI or SSDI (I am low income so I am not sure which one you get for that reason)

    Thank you so much for time!!

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Claire,

      I’ll answer your numbered questions:

      1. It can take a year or more after you request a hearing to get a hearing date.

      2. Some people are successful going to a hearing and representing themselves, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Hearings have certain procedures that have to be followed and points of Social Security law could come up that you would not know to respond to. Therefore, it would be good to have legal representation from an attorney very experienced in Social Security Disability law.

      3. You have the right to request a copy of your entire claim file. If you have an attorney, the attorney will do this.

      4. If you are denied at the hearing, the denial means you are not eligible for either Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because both require you to be disabled as defined by Social Security law. If you are denied at the hearing, you have the right to request an Appeals Council review of the denial. However, the hearing is the best opportunity to make your case.

      You can obtain an excellent Social Security attorney by calling Disability Advisor at 1-888-393-1010. You do not have to pay any legal fees up front and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount your attorney can charge and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from your retroactive award at the time they send your back pay to you. So, it’s all very easy and risk-free.

      Sincerely,

      Kay

  33. diana casper says:

    I have had two hearings since 2011 Feb then went through the wait of the furlough when the judge said there is nothing I can do for work dye to my dusablilities accrued at war . I have terminated my attorney for not looking out for my best interests as a one hundred percent disabled veteran making me almost homeless and bills almost shut off I took matters into my own hands . My status is critical and they are aware and hav
    e my military status discharge papers and Veterans percentage rating along with my va file. They marked it critical since march 29 2014 how long do I have to wait for an answer and back pay once they approve my claim ? Thank you

    • diana casper says:

      I forgot to mention I got denied twice and it is in Virginia currently at the adjudication office .

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Diana,

      Your appeal will be handled before non-critical appeals, but it will have to wait its turn behind any other critical claims filed before yours. Therefore, I cannot predict how long it will take for the Appeals Council to complete its review.

      Best regards,

      Kay

      Thank you,

      Kay

  34. deb mcmullen says:

    I had a disability hearing on Wed, April 16th and received a medicaid application on Sat, April 18th does that mean anything in regard to the decision?

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