After I file a disability claim, how long does it take the Social Security office to make a determination?
Find out how long your Social Security office typically takes to process a Social Security disability claim and learn when expedited handling applies.
Social Security Disability Processing Time Varies
Processing time for Social Security Disability claims varies. Currently, the Social Security Administration, which is sometimes referred to as SSA, indicates that generally initial disability claim processing takes from three to five months. The time frame to complete processing depends on how much medical information is needed to reach a decision and on how quickly you and your medical providers respond to requests from the state agency that SSA uses to evaluate your claim for disability. Processing time also depends on whether a consultative examination with an SSA-appointed physician is needed for additional information. Agency backlogs due to a higher than usual influx of claims can also affect processing times. For more detailed information about the disability evaluation process, see our article How Does the Social Security Administration Apply Social Security Laws to Determine If I Am Disabled?
Some Claims Are Expedited
There are two types of claims that qualify for expedited processing. The first is Compassionate Allowance claims. If an individual suffers from one of a limited list of diseases, illnesses, or injuries from which no recovery can be expected, either due to the condition itself or due to the advanced stage of the condition, special evidence rules apply. Because these conditions have invariably been found to meet disability requirements under the Listing of Impairments, these claims are fast tracked and require minimal confirming information for approval. Examples of such conditions are very advanced untreatable cancers and paralyzing spinal cord injuries.
The second type of claim that can receive expedited handling is one in which the claimant is likely disabled and supporting medical evidence is readily available. These claims are automatically fast-tracked for a Quick Disability Decision, which is often completed in less than a month.
Deferral of Your Social Security Disability Determination
On the other end of the spectrum, very occasionally Social Security defers making a decision on a claim until nearly twelve months have passed from the disability date. This occurs if you are severely disabled initially, such as by a stroke; but based on the medical evidence, you could recover prior to being disabled for twelve months. In this situation, your Social Security office will notify you that the decision on your claim is on hold until closer to the end of twelve months, when updated medical information will be obtained and a decision made.